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Town outraged over chaos house

THE ARTS

Town outraged over chaos house

Charles Bremner
September 19, 2006

CRASHED aircraft, fire-blackened walls, a swimming pool of blood and portraits of Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden adorn a sprawling « shrine to chaos » which is at the centre of a dispute in a village on the outskirts of Lyon in France.

To the anger of the mayor and some residents, the Lyon appeal court last week recognised the 2.5-acre Demeure du Chaos (Abode of Chaos), the project of an internet millionaire, as a work of art and allowed it to remain standing.

Thierry Ehrmann, 44, the owner and creator, was fined E200,000 ($A336,000) for failing to seek planning permission to turn his 17th-century coaching inn and its grounds in the village of Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or into a theatre of war. The appeal judges annulled a lower court order to have the site, developed by 45 European artists, restored to its original state.

Ehrmann’s celebration of the apocalypse, inspired by his experiences in the Middle East and by the events of September 11, 2001, has enraged residents who are offended by its charred walls, twisted metal, burnt-out cars and battlefield debris. A mock oil platform sits on one roof amid camouflage netting. The garden includes a sculpture recreating the remains of the World Trade Centre.

« I have to pass by it every day. It’s morbid. It’s horrible, » Monique Nietto, a neighbour, told Le Parisien. « Ehrmann has completely destroyed a magnificent property. »

The locals call the site « Grozny on the Cote d’Or ».

Pierre Dumont, 70, the mayor, who brought the suit against Ehrmann, is now appealing to the country’s highest court, which can overturn the verdict only on technical grounds. « It stuns me and sickens me. The law is obviously not the same for everyone, » he said. Ehrmann’s « morbid and aggressive » site had blighted the village, which has 1000 residents, he added.

Ehrmann, who occupies the house with his two Great Danes, Saatchi and Reuters, said that the ruling was a victory for art. The mayor was helping to publicise a site which has become the most visited free open museum in France, he added. « We get about 90,000 people a year, » he said. Little was visible from the outside, he added.

Ehrmann, whose fortune mainly comes from artprice.com, the international art valuation site which he founded, is supported by a local MP. Officials in the culture ministry are considering having his Demeure listed as a recognised art work. « The judges have confirmed that this is unquestionably a work of art, and have clearly shown their will to protect a unique and singular creation, » he said after the appeals ruling.

The Times

copyright ©2006 The Australian

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