For going on ten years now, Thierry Ehrmann, CEO of the Serveur group (which owns the online art values service Artprice.com), has been at work on La Demeure du Chaos at his home, an old postal station in Saint-Romain au Mont d’Or, near Lyon (see ap 312, May 2005). This alchemical and political project consists in an ongoing deconstruction of the estate. The 3,123 works scattered around the 10,000 square meters of the house and grounds include frescos and sculptures, among them burnt-out cars and a crashed airplane, expressing the violence of our age. The mayor of Saint-Romain sees the Demeure as an offensive visual blot on the picturesque, goldenstoned landscape of his village and instituted legal proceedings years ago. At the end of 2008, his case was heard in court for a fourth time, and on December 16, the appeal court in Grenoble ordered Ehrmann to put his estate «in order» over the coming nine months. The court produced a 25-page judgment stating, as Ehrmann tells us, that « the work of art has no right to exist autonomously in public space. It is imperativethat it comply with ground use plans and other local urban plans. It must be in harmony with the range of regional colors. Etc.. To sum up, the work of art is denied everything that makes it different from the urban environment: its singularity, the style of its maker, its distinctive features, form, medium and subject. »
You don’t have to be a fan of this project’s provocative side and esoteric inspiration, or of its Goth aesthetic. But there is no denying that Thierry Ehrmann has built up an ensemble that is just as surprising as the Ideal Palace created by the postman Cheval. La Demeure du Chaos far exceeds the question of banal urban rules about the colors of walls. So what are they afraid of? That millions of people might secretly want to transform their house into a modern battleground? La Demeure du Chaos is an exceptional case, and it is a work of art. And, like it or not, it is already part of our cultural heritage. Thierry Ehrmann is appealing the judgment.
Richard Leydier – art press
Translation, C. Penwarden
copyright ©2009 artpress 353 Février 2009