‘During the tasting, it is possible to find poems and stories in the soup. To digest, it is important not to keep it to ourselves but to share.”
This is the poetic advice given to guests on the website of the Gallery Chez Moi, Chez Toi, (translated ‘At Mine, at Your’s’), Nîmes, Southern France, and it offers an appropriate insight into this unique arts space. Set up by Asgeir Andersen, a retired Norwegian architect who has lived in Nîmes for many years, La Galerie Chez Moi, Chez Toi is a small but special arts venue. Its obscure location in a narrow backstreet and its equally confusing exterior- a darkened shop front revealing what looks like a busy artist’s studio- betrays the dynamic and exciting community activities within.
The Gallery was created by Andersen, a lifelong amateur art lover and artist, after he suffered a stroke which left him handicapped. He subsequently turned his home into a gallery space, and this is clear in the gallery space- it has a lived-in feel, with a large dining table in the centre of the main exhibition room. It prioritises cultural and social over commercial aims, wishing to showcase local artists and provide arts events for its membership. As well as exhibiting the works of a new artist every month, it offers poetry nights, concerts, Feng Shui classes and veillée soupe et contes (‘storytelling and soup’) events.
…I found the charitable, community-based ethos of the gallery refreshing…
Andersen generously showed me around explaining the current exhibition and I found the charitable, community-based ethos of the gallery refreshing. Diverse works by the artist Eric Rolland Bellagamba neatly lined the exhibition room’s walls. A series of about fifteen simple abstract illustrations sharply contrasted with several atmospheric landscape paintings, and a table displayed a range of his children’s books illustrated in impressively different styles.
Andersen’s works and sculpture also featured heavily in the space- bright abstract acrylic and oil canvases from his series Mort et fierté de vie (‘Death and Pride of Life’) lined the walls. The sometimes moody but overwhelmingly joyful palettes of colour reference his stroke and his recovery experience.
…A local gentleman dramatically told an old French story…
The homely personal touch of Chez Moi, Chez Toi continued that evening. As I had been enthusiastically invited and signed up on the day, I had no idea what to expect from the ‘veille soupe et contes’ evening. I arrived to a room full of people sat around the dining table and the animated sounds of storytelling. A local gentleman dramatically told an old French story, before another lady piped in with a poem continuing his theme. One of the ladies appeared with homemade soup, enjoyed with more poems, riddles and lashings of laughter. More short stories and musings over local news ensued over delicious homemade cake. The evening finished in a song, people joining in to sing with the guitar, and the jovial Kandinsky-like hues of Andersen’s works seemed a perfect backdrop to such a harmonious, colourful evening.
La Galerie Chez Moi, Chez Toi stays true to its name, inviting visitors to a welcoming home as well as an enjoyable exhibition and entertainment space. A key ingredient of its success is Andersen’s generous support. Mixing this with spoonfuls of community spirit and dollops of exciting artwork will continue to ensure that Chez Moi, Chez Toi keeps creating both delectable and heart-warming results.
La Galerie Chez Moi, Chez Toi, 9 Rue Gauthier, (quartier Gambetta), 30000 Nîmes, France.
+33 (0)4 66 21 07 31
Opening Hours: Thurs-Sat 5-7pm, or by simple phone appointment.
The new exhibition is of the works of Jacqueline de Coninck, and is running from 10 March.