A giant among the righteous. International star, the painter and sculptor exhibits all summer at "Place of Memory"
It is one of the most contemporary French contemporary artists, accustomed to exhibit in the most prestigious museums and galleries in the world. But this summer, Gerard Garouste chose to hang his paintings in a small village in Haute-Loire. And by any one, the Chambon-sur-Lignon, distinguished (with the neighboring communes) for the title of Just among the nations for hosting and protecting thousands of Jews during the Second World War. This exceptional exhibition gathers a selection of works that resonate with the history of the village but also with that of the artist.
It all started with a visit to Tence last September, in Istor in the hamlet of Chaumargeais, with his wife Élisabeth and Chambon Mayor Éliane Wauquiez-Motte. Converted to Judaism, Gerard Garouste, familiar with the Talmud, discovered the story of these young Jewish intellectuals who had founded here for a few months.School of the Prophets which contributed to the revival of French Judaism. After the war, it became the Jewish School of Orsay in Paris, a cultural center animated by thinkers interested in Jewish ethics and philosophy.
He also discovers the history of Chambon, Tence, Mazet-Saint-Voy … All these villages and hamlets of the Vivarais-Lignon plateau where the inhabitants, mostly Protestants, whose collective unconscious kept in memory the persecutions that they also suffered because of their religion, refused collaboration, decided to resist by all means and especially to welcome Jews, many of them children, threatened with deportation to the death camps. The Plateau would become the refuge mountain, as historians have called it.
The idea of an exhibition linking this story to Garouste's work, strongly inspired by the Talmudic tradition, the horror of the Holocaust and his personal history, was born. It has naturally found its place in the Place de Mémoire, a museum opened in 2013, which traces the history of the inhabitants of the Plateau and their acts of resistance against Nazism. For the occasion, he made an original work called The hourglass or Yitshak's kedat.
The story of the "Justes du Plateau" is particularly echoed by Garouste whose father, a furniture merchant, was an anti-Semite and well-known petainist, sentenced after the war to repay the property he had stolen from Jews. A traumatized childhood, psychiatric problems and a tormented work through which he tries to exorcise his demons. A story he evoked in his autobiographical book: The intranquille, self-portrait of a son, a painter, a madman.
With this exhibition, it's a message he wants to pass on. Worried about the situation in Europe, he calls the younger generations to a start against the rise of the far right, anti-Semitism. To act as resistance.
This exhibition is for Europe. This rise of the extreme right, this populism that we see everywhere, is the opposite of what happened in Chambon. We must resist.
A commemorative plaque commemorating the Justes du Plateau is present at the Memorial Yad Vashem of Jerusalem dedicated to the victims of the Shoah.
"Gérard Garouste and the School of Prophets" – until September 29, 2019 – Place of Memory, 23 Route du Mazet, 43400 Le Chambon-sur-Lignon – Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 12:30 pm and from 14h to 18h