©Eugénie Ragot

Six gems of contemporary art not to miss

Contemporary art? In Brittany, it’s everywhere, and not just in the galleries! You just have to look in the right places. Push a door, take a side step, look upwards and you’ll find a treasure. Here is the proof in six sites!

In the blink of an eye

1. Design and poetry on the water

The Belvedere on the Vilaine by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, in Rennes

Head to Rennes and the Mail district for an arty version of the capital. An odd-looking structure floats on the Vilaine, at the foot of the Jean Nouvel building and close to the Horizons towers built in the 1970s by Georges Maillols. It is born of the imagination of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Breton designers with international fame. Moored to the bank, the slender belvedere can be visited. When night falls, it projects magical reflections on the water. It’s elegant and brilliant!

Le Belvédère Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

Where to eat:

Where to sleep:

2. Left bank, right bank… and in the middle

Ty Kodak and the Max Jacob footbridge, in Quimper

The clichés of Brittany are well-known: earthenware items, half-timbered houses, etc. But on the quays, something attracts the eye. The avant-garde design with rounded edges is striking. It’s the work of Olivier Mordrelle, who in 1933 had just designed Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. The idea of returning to regionalism, to picturesque design, did not appeal to him! He persisted and designed the garage at 24 boulevard Dupleix, just opposite, now home to the editorial office of Ouest France. Between the two buildings is the Odet river and its footbridges. Among them is a particular gem, dedicated to Max Jacob. It was designed by Elisabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, the “Bonnie and Clyde” of contemporary design. On one of the piers, a portrait of the poet after Modigliani appears and disappears with the tide. “Brittany is a miracle,” he wrote, “it absorbs the cars, the Corbusier houses, lipstick…”. Without ever stopping to be Brittany.

Ty Kodak

Where to eat:

Where to sleep:

3. Let the sun shine

The stained glass windows of the Notre-Dame collegiate church, in Lamballe

What do a medieval capital, a national stud and Mathurin Méheut, painter of the sea, have in common? Lamballe, city of art and history on the Côtes d’Armor. Along with the best in contemporary stained glass, which you can find in Notre-Dame collegiate church, which dominates the city. Large expanses of light fall, like a curtain on the stage. The stained glass windows of Geneviève Asse are in a unique shade of blue, the artist’s personal mark. Those of Olivier Debré, in orange-yellow, respond to them, lighting up columns and capitals. Another way of depicting purity and infinity.

The stained glass windows of the collegiate church

Where to eat:

Where to sleep:

4. Art Deco gem

Saint-Yves chapel, in Saint-Brieuc

Open the doors of the bishopric and open your eyes wide. Geometric patterns and a profusion of colours decorate everything – from the cloister to the chapel – in a dazzling display of modernity. Everything here is exceptional – the cubist forms, the main altar with Odorico mosaics, the fresco paintings, etc. And everywhere, on the floor, in the furniture, is the influence of Seiz Breur, this collective of artists who are reinventing the popular decorative arts, which wanted to break away from the rigid image of Brittany. Here in this restored place that anyone can visit, a Zen atmosphere reigns. Take time to enjoy the moment.

 Saint-Yves chapel

Where to eat:

Where to sleep:

5. A miracle of balance

In Dinard, Il Peso del Vento 2015 by Penone

We tend to look out to the ocean as we walk, admiring the view, and yet, during a break at Pointe de la Malouine, on the GR®34, look up at the tree playing lookout. Wedged in its bare trunk there is an egg, like a giant heart. The monumental sculpture by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, a major figure of the Arte povera artistic current, is in bronze. It stands 13 metres high, looking over the prestigious Greystones Villa. A story of nature and humanity which accompanies anyone on the path who has the time to listen to it.

Giuseppe Penone

Where to eat:

Where to sleep:

6. A mill and its strange life

Belvédère des ondes, in St-Benoît-des-Ondes

Cancale, Mont St-Michel… These are places you simply have to visit when in northern Brittany. But what about Saint-Benoît des-Ondes? Your sidestep will take you here! And it will take you to a major work of art and a stunning view. Let’s rewind: It had been a modest mill for two centuries. Jean-Luc Vilmouth, famous French visual artist, transformed it into a place to share on the exceptional site of Mont-Saint-Michel Bay. An open-air panoramic rooftop, guard rails with clean curves, inspired by the undulations of the water and the wind: it’s a must-see, open to the sea and our imaginations.

Belvédère des ondes

Where to eat, where to sleep:


You might also like...

Official website of tourism in Brittany