INSIDE JEAN-FRANCOIS FOURTOU’S SUITCASE
Like Cadet Roussel, Jean-François Fourtou has several houses and travels from one to the other according to a well-oiled calendar in line with the seasons, school holidays dates, family events celebrations and birthdays, which punctuate his existence. This personal, family life takes up most of his time, and yet does not interfere with his creativity in any way. On the contrary! In fact, the universe of Jean-François Fourtou, French visual artist, is entirely turned towards childhood, the memories and sensations that we have of it and that he tries to raise to the conscious surface by the means of his works. We go in them, we go around them, we touch them … Suddenly, it is the body, the physical memory that awakens the inner child, and the wonderful world that surrounds him. Everything in the work of this artist is sensation, emotion, nostalgia sometimes. Invited by Hermes to create shop windows in Paris, Tokyo or Shanghai, exhibited in Brussels and around the world, it is in Marrakech, Morocco, in his house in Dar El Sadaka, that he designs his installations, his sculptures and his photographs. From an agricultural property, he made a garden of Eden dotted with magical corners, which one discovers while staying in the Guest house.
What are your latest projects that you accomplished within your home in Dar El Sadaka?
In Dar el Sadaka, I recently created a giant anthill from a ruin in the ground, and an “army” of small gardeners that I call nanitos, small characters with squash or pumpkin heads that grow in the earth and then become gardeners once they become adults. When Gabrielle, my daughter, was little, I told her that they lived under the earth and ran so fast that we could not see them. I also created two extensions to the hive house, a separate house that I imagined around the theme of the bee and its hive – notably to accommodate two workshops. I’m also working on a prototype giant butterfly because our apartment in Madrid will become “the house of butterflies”.
Finally, at the beginning of September, I will go to Shanghai to realize the Hermès store windows for autumn.
I am also commissioning animal sculptures, especially a giant sheep for private individuals.
How do you define your work? What are you trying to communicate to the people who “meet” one of your works?
Rather than meeting, I would prefer to talk about experiencing. I like to disturb a visitor and draw him into the experience of my works. This can cause discomfort, like in the Fallen House where one finds himself walking on the ceiling … but it is most often an emotion, and it touches me. My works and installations are a proposal for the adult to find forgotten childhood sensations and to return, at least during the time of this experience, in this lost magical world.
Do you often travel and if so, to which destinations?
Marrakech is my base and Dar El Sadaka my open-air workshop in which I have the chance to experience new and many creations. Paris and especially Madrid are my regular drop-off points. But it is at the seaside that I go to resource myself, especially in San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque Country, in a small house on the beach in Goa, India, and in Patmos in Greece, each of which are places where I go at least once a year.
Do you travel often for your exhibitions?
Of course, I travel for my exhibitions. For instance, I recently travelled for two important interventions in Belgium, one for a public commission in Knokke and the other for the transformation of a house into a giant hive inside a public park in Brussels, or soon in Shanghai for the Hermès store windows. But as I said before, I go back to the same places regularly, if possible for periods of five to six weeks
Do you have a privileged relationship as an artist with a particular country? Why?
Yes, Morocco and more specifically Marrakech, which is a place of work and retirement for me. It is also a place for family reunions. Spain, with Madrid and San Sebastian, is my heartland where most of my friends live, and where I met my husband. I revealed myself there equally personally, professionally and artistically. New York was once very important to me, but this is no longer the case today. Goa, India and Patmos in Greece, are very inspiring and spiritual places for me.
Do you adapt your suitcase to the destination? Are you rather duffel bag, trunk, suitcase, travel bag, backpack or without luggage?
I always have two suitcases with wheels of color from the brand Lipault: a large one that I adapt to the destination and another small one that I keep with me with my work belongings.
Is your suitcase jumbled or rational?
The big suitcase is jumbled with very little of my things and many of my children’s, alongside material to carry for the specific destination. The small one is on the contrary rational and very orderly with my work documents, my computer, my hard drive and drawing utensils.
To travel, do you have a fetish outfit?
Throughout my travels, I learned to simplify my outfits, prioritizing comfortable clothes, of blue color.
What objects travel with you in the cabin?
In my small suitcase, which contains objects of work, I add earplugs and eye covers to be able to meditate, if my children, who are still very young, allow me to do so …
Do you sometimes travel to discover new destinations?
I like going back to the same places for long periods of time to have the feeling of living on the spot. Once in a specific place I often repeat the same lifestyle with rituals while moving as little as possible. Nevertheless, at least once a year, I try to discover a new place. If possible, in front of a sea where I can swim, without jellyfish. This year, at the end of September, we will certainly discover Sardinia.
Tips for traveling with your family? A particular habit?
I love traveling with my family! I love the chaos that this can represent with two grandchildren. It’s very much alive and it’s a great practice to live “in the moment”!
But once on the spot, I enjoy the routines!
A travel souvenir?
Washing my children in a bucket after bathing in the sea facing the sunset in Goa.
A dream destination?
A secret little place in Goa in January, Patmos in September and of course Dar el Sadaka in Marrakech, even if it remains a place of work for me.
And between all these trips, where are we most likely to meet you?
In Marrakech, where I spend the months of March-April, July-August and a large part of October-November. Once on site, I am always very busy in my studio with my current art projects and installations in the park. I also intervene in each of the rooms of the main house converted into a real installation around an animal sculpture (a giant giraffe), placed in the center of the dining room. In this house, which is rented in its totality, I receive many visitors that I take, if they wish, to discover the park and the installations. I mainly take care of the architecture and sculpture part. Philippe Forrestier, with whom I have a great artistic complementarity, develops the gardens, the scents, the cooking, the decoration … We thus propose to the visitors real sensory experiences around my works, for example giant lunches in the Double ladder house inspired by my grandmother’s house in Saint-Emilion.
To visit the sculpture park of Jean-François Fourtou in Marrakech:
To book a room in Dar El Sadaka: www.darelsadaka.com
To come and eat at the guest table of the House of the Giant in the sculpture park. It is a private experience that we propose either in the form of a lunch or in the form of an aperitif with dinner, depending on the season.
Jean-François Fourtou is represented by Christophe Langlitz Instagram: @christophelanglitz