Château Charleval Venue for Contemporary Art in Provence
Admittedly, we had never heard of Charleval or the significant neo-Gothic style castle on the edge of this agricultural village. Before the Château Charleval Provence Art Gallery, there had never been a reason to visit the town. Now, the former hunting lodge is a setting for “Amour Art Amitié” (Love, Art, Friendship) – as is visible in the current exhibition “Seasons of Heaven“, running until September 15, 2022.
A bit of History
While Charleval is not far from Aix-en-Provence and other cities, the town remains anchored to its agricultural past. Situated at the Bouches du Rhône and Vaucluse departments’ crossroads, the village is surprisingly uniform and more extensive than it first appears as a backdrop to the Château.
The town of Charleval came into existence after 1749 when Pierre-César de Cadenet acquired a rustic hunting lodge from his great grandfather. At the time, there was no settlement, just arable land. However, the enterprising nobleman, along with his wife Angélique de Barrigue de Montvalon, established the village by gifting land to any peasants who agreed to construct a house within set guidelines and work the fields under the seigneur’s direction. In 1741, 64 lessees agreed to this feudal tenure arrangement. Today, Charleval is an attractive working town, and Pierre-César de Cadenet’s bust appears on the fountain in the centre of town.
However, grand de Cadenet’s ambitions, it was not him who built the Château Charleval. In 1854, Mr Bonnefoy purchased the property and had the castle constructed two years later, intended as a show of love for his wife. Château’s style is out of place, almost Disneyland-worthy in an area surrounded by forest and agricultural fields.
Château Charleval Contemporary Art
Une sculpture dans un jardin, c’est un supplément d’âme. (A sculpture in a garden is an extra soul). ~Daniel Rocher
Successive owners and a decade vacuum left Château Charleval and the seven (7) hectare property in severe decay. Daniel Rocher, the son of cosmetics company founder Yves Rocher, is an artist, creator of Daniel Jouvance, father, and art collector. His search for the “right” property where he could establish an art venue had been long and unsuccessful. Until May 2019, he stumbled across the decrepit Château in a primarily unremarkable village. Where the rest of us might have seen an impossible task, Mr Rocher envisioned the location for art exhibitions (temporary and permanent), a place for his collection, and an expansive outdoor space as the setting for striking sculptures. Château Charleval Provence Art Gallery opened to the public in December 2021 with a diverse array of works by 30 artists.
Current Art Gallery Exhibit
“Creating a small flower is a work of centuries.” ~William Blake
The current exhibition Seasons of Heaven, the work of two talented female artists, runs until September 15, 2022. American painter Joanna Cutri and French ceramicist Aurélia Rocher, daughter of Daniel Rocher, met in Indonesia close to 15 years ago. A joint exhibition idea had percolated since then, but the show never came together due to the separation of oceans. Until Chateau Charleval. Joanna Cutri shared, “The story of this exhibition is quite beautiful and almost magical. It’s as if our souls whispered to each other across countries for six (6) months while we worked, and the work manifested.”
Living in southern California (Joanna Cutri) and France (Aurélia Rocher) discussed the theme for the exhibition but never collaborated or shared their work. However, they each created 21 pieces for the show. According to Simon Rocherieux, who gave us our tour, when the two artists began unpacking and arranging their works, they cried tears of joy.
As your eyes move from Joanna Cutri’s light-filled canvases to Aurélia Rocher’s organic ceramics, the Seasons of Heaven echos the joining of the forces of nature – where the sky and earth meet.
“Seasons of Heaven inspires us to view the world with virgin eyes and emotions of children. The smallest detail of a cell, the unified life force and perfection that surrounds us are found within the beauty, strength, and vitality of light and the density and softness of a patina. It is a cry of joy, an ode to harmony to become one with Nature.” ~ Press release
How to Visit Château Charleval
Château Charleval (website)
The Château is private.
However, visiting days are Tuesday through Saturday, 14h to 18h. Please call +33 (0)6 67 89 99 01 to make an appointment.
All the artwork and sculptures are for sale, except those that form part of Daniel Rocher’s private collection.
Take a look at the installations on Instagram @chateau_charleval