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Martial (aka Frank/Franck) Besse, La Castagnal/ Le jardin des Supplices – The Torture Garden

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About the Artist/Site

Martial Besse had many vocations as a young man, including farmer, barista, taxidermist, and hairdresser. After his divorce in 1952, without previously having evidenced any particular interest in studying or making art, he created a miniature house in the shape of a shoe, constructed from painted concrete.

After this work, rather tame in subject matter, he continued to expand his oeuvres; many seemed strange, violent, or pertaining to death or sex: a winged sphinx, hellish beasts, nudes, snakes, a crow mounting a fox, a tribal “savage” menacing viewers with his lance, a man with an enormous erection (this last the artist occasionally described as a self-portrait). Many of the works were rather counter-cultural or even subversive, an unbridled affront to conventional images and values. Some works were painted, and others were adorned with rocks, shells, flowers, and found objects, including many vintage agricultural implements and machines. Other works—a few elaborate, like the Chariot of Ben Hur—but also more standard garden ornaments as well as birds, dogs, small shelters, and other furniture, some constructed primarily of wood and found objects, also graced the yard, and many held an element of humor. Most of the works were easily available for passersby to view from the other side of the low hedge fronting his property along the road.

In 2004, Besse was forced to sell his home, and although the sale was accompanied by a promise to save the environment, the property soon passed to a different owner, and the sculpture was razed. It is thought that some of the discrete works were salvaged by Besse or his children before the demolition, but the site itself is no longer extant.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Bournel, Aquitaine, France
Latitude/Longitude: 44.619981 / 0.671507

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