Jun 27, 2019

New-fangled Old Art: Crottin de Champcol


You've seen Klimt before, but perhaps never quite like this -- projected onto the walls of an old converted foundry in a residential-industrial section of Paris. It's air conditioned, dark, and cool and turns out to be a great way to immerse yourself inside great works of art on a hot day, as long as you're OK with sitting on floors.

The foundry where the Atelier des Lumières (Light Workshop) is found, on rue Saint-Maur in the 11th arrondissement, was built in 1835 by a couple of brothers following in the family business of blacksmithing and metalwork. From this foundry, they supplied railway companies with cast iron parts, and their descendants continued the tradition in this spot for around 100 years.

In 1935, the building was sold to the Martin family, who used it for tool manufacturing, eventually closing the business in 2000. Finally, in 2014, the Martin family leased out the space to Bruno Monnier, who had recently created the Carrieres des Lumières (Light Quarries) art concept installation in Les-Baux-de-Provence. He decided to bring the concept to Paris and put it in the the 3000+ square meter (around 30,000 square feet) old foundry. It opened lasted year, in 2018. Besides being a beautiful, unusual, and immersive way to view art, it's also a great way to stay cool on a super hot summer day.

The current exhibit, Klimt, is colorful and popular -- but really you can't go wrong with any exhibition here. There is music that accompanies the projections, which constantly shift and change, and it's quite moody and atmospheric. If you want a more detailed review, you can read this very thorough and excellent one in the Guardian. Or you can simply trust me, and go buy a ticket if you'll be in Paris to see something unique and fresh.

When my family was at the Carrieres des Lumières in 2015, we saw older art projected onto the cool stone walls of an older place, a disused quarry. But even though the setting, music, and artistic period were different, there was something very similar about the contemporary and fresh feeling it gives you to be inside the paintings, completely surrounded by music and art projected larger than life.

THE CHEESE:  Crottin de Champcol

Crottin de Champcol (literally the "turd from Champcol") is a fine little nugget of goat cheese. This nugget is made from pasteurized goat's milk, in the village of La Vernelle in the department of l'Indre in the region of Centre-Val de Loire. The name is clearly intended to remind you of the better-known Crottin de Chavignol, produced about an hour away in the same region and by the same method; both cheeses are ladled into molds by hand. Since the Chavignol is a historic cheese with an AOP designation made from raw milk, and is therefore more prestigious, this one has a name that differentiates it yet also links them to together in the mind of the consumer.

It's smart marketing and fairly logical, as this cheese really does remind me in taste and texture of a Crottin de Chavignol. Because it's pasteurized, this young cheese is even exported to other countries, including the US, which makes it about as close to a Chavignol I can buy when I'm in San Francisco.

The texture is dense and somewhere between crumbly and creamy, depending on how aged your particular nugget is. It's got strong hints of mushrooms and a damp cellar, with the unmistakable flavor of goat's milk, all of which I mean as a resounding recommendation that this is a cheese with real flavor.


As I'm photographing it, I get an idea that amuses me to insert the cheese into my new platter (not a very serious affair, my new platter, but you can probably see why it spoke to me). This cheese is just the right size to put in the platter within the platter, inserting it into the artwork itself as part of the cheese and wine this chef is so jauntily offering while doing an arabesque.

And so Crottin de Champcol is chosen in honor of having some fun while mixing dimensions and intermingling ourselves with art -- on a smaller (and cheesier) scale than what is being done at Ateliers des Lumières and other similar venues in France.


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