Marseille: Pascal Verbena
Victor and I first went to see him in Paris 1979 after the Hayward show. He made wonderful wooden boxes which he called ‘Habitacles’ out of old post office desks because he worked in the post office and sorted letters - that was his job. And when they got rid of the old desks he used hem to make these wonderful things. Victor and I went to go see him and perhaps acquire a couple.
His work place was near the docks in Marseille. His workshop was just filled with bits of wood and bits of string and bits of this and bits of that. He always made his glue himself out of fish bones, as he was a fisherman and loved fishing. It was actually a secret as to how he made the glue. It was kind of magic glue. He would only use natural materials.
And we had a wonderful time. He talked very quickly with a strong Marseilles accent. He made us a paella and [we] had a wonderful evening, except I could hardly understand him because of his strong accent. Victor’s French was a bit better than mine. We have stayed in touch ever since.
Paris: Michel Nedjar
Hauterives: Palais Idéal constructed by Ferdinand Cheval
I had never been to the famous postman’s ‘Palais Idéal’ in Hauterives and Geneviève thought a trip there would make it a special journey.
One is really not prepared by any visual material as to just how great and wonderful this construction is ‘in the flesh. ’ It is much bigger and more imposing and the details get lost in the reproduction. One enters through a small gate and there it is, proud, grand and touching. It is hard to imagine how he could possibly have done it physically, apart from the ingenuity and the visual inventions. The building took him thirty-four years to complete.
Geneviève and I… went to go see his grave in the cemetery. It was not very far from the building itself which he had constructed. You cannot imagine that a chap with his wheelbarrow made this over thirty years.
Candide: Musée Crepin
The Candide was not so well known because I do not think it was subsidised. You pulled this bell and it was a one man band. And he was either there or he wasn’t. He obviously had a passion for what he collected.
This lovely man who just collected these things and had this cave-like gallery. He had all these things in it and little books about various places with outsiders. He collected extraordinary things like carvings, things he found from his travels and sometime he collected things that might have been thrown away. He collected anything that caught his fancy. It was a little bit like folk art or sort of curiosities really. I liked that it didn’t need to have a name. He was an avid collector.
France is full of these small treasures, collected by enthusiasts. Not only pictures and three dimensional constructions, but also books of poetry, illustrated pamphlets, anything that the owners regard as special.