Luxury is freedom

A happy wedding

by Sophie Verchère


Scultpures en bois de Jean Zorko© Bruno Pellarin 











One Saturday, ten o’clock, departure from Paris for Vivoin, a small town near Le Mans. The prospect of these two days for the opening of an exhibition “Spaces, forms and materials” in a priory makes us forget the torrential rain throughout the journey.


But miracles exist since a few kilometers from the finish, the sun appears and never leaves again

Verrerie Julie Legrand © Bruno Pellarin

Corine Borgnet et Jean Honfleur © Bruno Pellarin

Corine Borgnet © Bruno Pellarin

A more than warm welcome by Jérôme Dauchez, the owner of the place, around a lunch at the foot of the monastery with four of the six artists exhibited, amateurs, collectors who came as neighbors. When we meet Jérôme Dauchez, a slim, energetic figure, a laughing look, a broad smile, almost snow-white hair, we say to ourselves that this man cannot have enemies because he is so outgoing and enthusiastic. An artist will tell me a little later “we can’t refuse Jérôme anything!” The story of how and why there is a contemporary art center here intrigues me. Without this invitation, it is very likely that this region of France would have remained unknown to me. Error! The Sarthe is green, mountain-like with the Mancelles Alps just a few bends of small roads away. Jérôme Dauchez arrived in this corner of France, without knowing it, following a family decision to acquire a place spacious enough for family, friends, fresh air and disconnection. He quickly fell under the spell of the Prieuré Saint-Hippolyte, just a stone’s throw from his home sweet home. This Benedictine monastery saw its first stone laid in the 11th century and the last in the 16th century. The Dauchez family, from Paris, has been managing and administering real estate since the Revolution. Jérôme continues this great professional adventure which fascinates him in several ways. Especially that of meetings. This activity allows him to meet people from various backgrounds including gallery owners…for the walls of their galleries and, like a pearl necklace, artists and collectors. And there you have it, the art virus is inoculated

Driven by curiosity, he has continued to “track down” artists for years. No, this verb is not so strong when you know your thirst for discovery. All forms of art thrill him. You will never catch him in the act of consuming Netflix or other platforms because, on his scooter, he goes from one show to another, from one workshop to another. He loves artists so he supports them, buys them, collects them. He encourages them with development opportunities, allows them to take actions in line with their career paths, and exposes them. This curious person who lives without a watch likes to say that he has eternity ahead of him while living in the present moment.

Julie Legrand et Benjamin Sabatier© Bruno Pellarin

Also, when a call for projects was launched to take over the management of the Priory of Vivoin, until then in the hands of the departmental council, he seized the opportunity or rather this sign of destiny with his partner Lancelot Durand, also in love with the place. “As a collector and patron of artists, it seemed natural to me to create an art center in this magnificent location. I found it interesting that this historic place could house contemporary creators in order to open a different perspective on the coexistence of eras. We have a 35-year lease which allows the project to continue. This place is also open to receptions, weddings and seminars.” This setting offering Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture will live to the rhythm of the seasons, two annual exhibitions alongside the permanent collection but also performances, conferences, concerts, artistic weekends. The impressive spaces allow spectacular works to be highlighted. Today, the works resonating in three monastic rooms bathed in beautiful spring light are those of six artists, six universes, six strong singularities. The whole art was to place powerful creations two by two which do not cannibalize each other but naturally echo each other. Here we go ? The eye is immediately drawn to Corine Borgnet’s surprising stack of balanced plates, laughing eyes and joyfully disordered curls. With this creation and others like a royal crown made of poultry bones, Corine relates the beauty of life with its excesses, its moments of sharing, its fragility and its strength. She who loves sacred places almost feels at home! Cohabiting with Corine, are the sculptures of Denis Monfleur. Stone. Bully. Denis cuts elegant heads. The polish and the crevices reveal portraits like that of Charles-de-Gaulle. His work seems to be carried by the telluric currents of matter. 

A few steps and room number two immediately recalls the name of the exhibition, “Spaces, Forms and Matters”. Roland Cognet’s sculptures and casts project a confrontation of the mineral and the plant, the animal and the human. The quintessence of his work is there. Concrete, pure material and a result haloed with sensuality.

Denis Monfleur © Bruno Pellarin

 Roland Cognet © Bruno Pellarin

Who better than Elmar Trenkwalder to share this space with Roland Cognet? His freedom in working with earthenware, his passion for drawing, his precise and meticulous technique bring dreams and softness to his creations. All his works are articulated around mysticism, eroticism, sensuality, ornamental, symbolism. We continue and end the exhibition with Julie Legrand and Benjamin Sabatier. Julie with an impressive glass work. From the ceiling, a rain of vases, plates, bowls in polished, blown, flat glass. The artist seems, with this creation, to have exploited everything that glass could offer. Fragility, rigidity for a fluid and hypnotizing totem. Benjamin Sabatier or how to treat art in the social-economic sphere. Using concrete, bricks, DIY materials and cardboard, he offers a very aesthetic vision of construction site materials. From a block of cement, he creates a soft cushion on which we almost dream of lounging. The naturalness and obviousness of his works make us forget the gesture of the sculptor. A place of history and contemporary art, but not only that… Jérôme Dauchez meets his guests in the gardens which protect the priory. The sun is still there highlighting the works of artists scattered here and there. Jérôme has one last little surprise in store for the end: “Ultimately, three aspects of culture will resonate in this place: history, contemporary art and, in the near future, the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic herbs.” Another good reason to come! Exhibitions to the rhythm of the seasons. Previously, the Priory welcomed the photographer Gérard Rancinan and the author Caroline Gaudriault who delivered their interpretation of consumerist society and its contradictions


No form of art is forgotten, a way of addressing everyone.


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 Roland Cognet © Bruno Pellarin

Elmar Trenkwalder et Julie Legrand © Bruno Pellarin

Roland Cognet et Elmar Trenkwalder © Bruno Pellarin