thierry Ehrmann, La Demeure du Chaos [The House of Chaos]
Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69270, France
About the Artist/Site
French businessman and practicing Freemason Ehrmann was born in Avignon; he founded and chairs the Serveur Group, which includes the art marketing website artprice.com, whose 400 employees maintain a database of art auction prices, artist biographies, and art images. He is married and has two children.
Around 1999 Ehrmann purchased a two-story 17th-century stone building in the quiet village of Saint Romain au Mont d’Or that had been used as a relais – a combined post office, way station, hotel, and restaurant. He took this 100,000 square foot building, protected by high stone walls, and began transforming it into what he calls La Demeure du Chaos, the House of Chaos. He has poured millions of dollars from his personal fortune into the site, which is used as the headquarters of artprice.com, but also as a residence for artists from various countries. It also includes a contemporary art museum, le Musée l‘Organe. Among his references are Andy Warhol’s Factory.
Ehrmann began altering the site, first painting the exterior walls of the building black and then painting portraits of religious, political, and pop culture figures on all the façades, ranging from Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, several Popes, Julian Assange, Gerard Depardieu, Kim Jong-Un, Marshall McLuhan, Richard Serra, Rodrigo Duerte, Yasir Arafat, Ariel Sharon, and dozens more, offset with pithy quotations and graffiti: “Nous sommes tous des aliénés du système [We’re all alienated from the system]!,” “Avant d’entrer oubliez tout ce que vous avez appris [Before entering forget everything that you’ve learned]!,” “Aujourd’hui l’homme providential est un banquier [Today the divine man is a banker]…,” and, mocking the historical monument status of some French sites, a proclamation that this one is “Classée Monument Hysterique [Classified as a Hysterical Monument].” The signs and portraits are juxtaposed with found objects of all kinds, including rusted parts from a helicopter, an oil truck, several cars, and various pieces of industrial equipment, as well as models of oil drilling platforms and a 10 meter (39 foot) high model of the World Trade Towers’ skeletal outline in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two monumental silver-colored skulls surmount the walls and dominate the view of some 1200 on-site sculptures. The work is bold, compelling, and aggressive.
The artist, who asserts he suffers from a manic-depressive condition, has written: “…since the beginning of law, there is no crime nor offence when the accused is in a state of insanity or constrained by an act of God. This dementia of artistic creation, the power of its creative madness have since millenniums [sic] made it possible for mankind to build temples, catacombs, mass graves, places of genuflexion [sic], calvaries, labyrinths, Golgotha, oratories, via crucis sanctuaries, priories and cathedrals of light. Each of these words…describes the Abode of Chaos….”
As might be expected, not everyone in this quiet village appreciated this work. On behalf of the village, the mayor brought suit against Ehrmann in 2004, charging him with violating local building ordinances. While the initial judgement went against the artist, ultimately he prevailed with the claim that his work was art and not constructed buildings, upheld on July 7, 2016. The ongoing legal battles have split the town’s residents, some of whom love the site, some of whom hate it, and others who just wish that he hadn’t modified the historical building to such an extent. And most agree that the traffic brought by out-of-town visitors has disrupted their quiet life; while the site is only open to the public on Saturday afternoons at this point, the tens of thousands of visitors each year has definitely changed the town’s character.
Ehrmann continues to build, to adorn, and to mock the local government and those he calls reactionaries for responding so negatively and strongly to his work. He compares himself to the Facteur Ferdinand Cheval of Hauterives, only some 100 km (60 miles) from his own site, in his dedication to his work and, as he describes it, the faith to build cathedrals.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d'Or, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69270 fr
Latitude/Longitude: 45.837504 / 4.822944
Damerey, Bourgogne Franche-Comté