food / travel

Museum-Worthy Art Planted In Vineyards In The South Of France

Art at Chateau Lacoste
Art at Chateau Lacoste
Michel Guerrin

AIX-EN-PROVENCE — Here, the vineyard traces the pathways of art. It usually is the other way around, whereby a well-known vineyard expands its activities (rooms for rent, a restaurant, exhibitions) to attract more wine buyers. But at Château La Coste, 15 kilometers from Aix-en-Provence in southeastern France, the cultural offer is so rich that people sometimes come just for that. The good news is that the wines are are often still extraordinary.

At La Coste, visitors can spend two hours, four hours, or even a whole day; you can lunch and dine outdoors, have some tea, lie on the grass under the stars and watch a Woody Allen or Coen Brothers' movie; attend a concert or a lecture; buy books; wander in the vegetable garden or explore the wine cellar; see buildings designed by famous architects and numerous works of art. As of last December, you can even spend the night in sumptuous villas. Hang around, the place encourages it. Château La Coste is a magnificent site that enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year.

At the center of the property is a long, stripped-down building designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando. It is surrounded by an artificial lake, with a three-meter wide spider that seems to be dancing before your eyes: it was sculpted by the legendary Louise Bourgeois. There is also a black, yellow and red mobile by Alexander Calder.

The vineyard occupies about half of the 123-hectare Château La Coste estate. Most of the art and architecture promenade takes place on a hill covered in downy oak. The cost for visitors is 15 euros, and picnicking is strictly forbidden. "The artists don't like it," says one member of the Château staff.

Attracted by all that is perfect.

Starting with the bridge built by Larry Neufeld, cross over a large void, then sink into a dark lair, enter strange buildings, discover imposing sculptures, come upon golden wolves, retrace your steps when you take a wrong turn. You need to accept getting lost to see the works of world-renowned artists such as Bourgeois and Calder, as well as Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sean Scully, Lee Ufan, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Tracey Emin and others. Not all of them are represented by major sculptures, but their works fit in well with the landscape.

Finally, art is also in the wine. Though Château La Coste is a recent project, wine has been produced here since 200 BC, first by the Greeks, then the Romans, then monks and Provençal counts. The site is now owned by a discreet Irish businessman, Patrick McKillen, who bought it in 2004 after making a fortune in real estate. McKillen, a friend of U2 singer Bono, also co-owns some London hotels like Claridge's, The Connaught and The Berkeley.

Mathieu Cosse, who was recruited in 2006 to make state-of-the-art wine at La Coste, says McKillen "is attracted by everything that's perfect," to explain his multiple investments. "Art and wine elevate one another," says Cosse. "We don't do tourism first or wine first or art first. It's a project that embraces it all. And it's unique in France."

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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