November 15, 2008

Jean-Michel Chesné, Grotte Chapelle/Garden Grotto

pictures courtesy of Jean-Michel Chesné
Life and work

Born in 1959 Jean-Michel Chesné studied agriculture, but preferred to be active in music, painting and writing about art brut/outsider art, contributing articles to magazines like Raw Vision, Gazogène and Zon´art.

He became interested in outsider art in 1992 after a visit he paid to the famous art environment le Palais Ideal. Dazzled by what he had experienced at this site and having discovered that in France there were many more of such art brut sites, in 1997 he decided to construct a grotto in the garden behind his house in Malakoff, a Paris suburb.

It took him two years to create the 4.5 m (15 ft) high construction made from wood and glassfibre, its walls covered with colorful mosaic. It was completed in May 1999.

In later years Chesné has expanded the site by decorating the walls of the garden with mosaics, an activity in progress for many years.

The Garden Grotto is not open for the public, but occasionally there will be an Open Day.

Jean-Michel Chesné's postcard collection

After his visit to the Palais Idéal, Chesné also began collecting picture postcards of outsider environments. Currently this collection probably is one of the most complete in France.

Parts of the collection have been exhibited, for example in october 2008 in the Halle Saint Pierre in Paris and in 2013 in Liège (expo Oh My God organized by MAD Musée in the Chapelle Saint-Roch).

Expositions of his paintings

Apart from music and theater, Chesné currently is rather active as a painter. His work is regularly exhibited in french galeries.


From july 2010 on, Chesné is authoring a weblog (in french). It has the story of the construction of the garden grotto and information about expositions, new publications and developments in the field of french outsider art. Occasionaly the blog has postcards from Chesné's collection. 

Future of the site threatened

In october 2015 it was announced that the local authorities of Malakoff considered an urban renewal plan which would include demolition of Chesné's art evironment.

A petition has been started asking the town hall to change the plans and preserve the site.

Documentation, more pictures
* Article (January 2002, in french) about the Grotto by Jeanine Rivais
An article by Jean-Michel Chesné about the making of the Garden Grotto on the SPACES website
* A video by Marc Rohner (Daily Motion, 23'43", uploaded april 2012)

* Jean-Michel Chesné in 2011 has written about his grotto in his weblog (in french)
* Picasa webalbums has a series of pictures of the garden and the grotto (can be run as a diashow)

first published nov 2008, revised july 2010, july 2011, april 2012, oct nov 2015

Jean-Michel Chesné
Garden Grotto
92240 Malakoff
Paris France
can be visisted on special occasions and by appointment

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