November 15, 2008

Jean-Michel Chesné, Grotte Chapelle / Garden Grotto

the grotto in January 2024
pictures courtesy of Jean-Michel Chesné  

Life and works

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 Gazogène and Zon´art ¹.

He became interested in outsider art in 1992 after a visit he paid to the famous French art environment le Palais Idéal. Inspired by this kind of  creative activity, he decided in 1997 to construct a grotto in the garden behind his house in the Paris suburb of Malakoff.

It took him two years to create the 4.5 m (15 ft) high construction made from wood and fiberglass. The grotto, covered with colorful mosaic and other decorations, was completed in May 1999.

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

Jean-Michel Chesné's postcard collection

After his visit to the Palais Idéal, Chesné began collecting picture postcards of art environments, especially those in France. Currently this collection of some 3000 postcards probably is one of the largest 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

Chesné is also rather active as a painter. In 2021 he decided to continue his life as a full time artist. His work is regularly exhibited in French galleries (See Wikiwand for an overview). 


From July 2010 Chesné authors a weblog  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. Occasionally the blog has postcards from Chesné's collection.

A new urban renewal plan (2015) doesn't threaten 
the continued existence of the site

In October 2015 it was announced that the local authorities of Malakoff considered an urban renewal plan, which might include demolition of Chesné's art environment. A petition asked the local authorities to change the plans in order to preserve the site. In September 2016 good news was reported: the plans were modified in such a way that the site would be respected indeed.

Expanding the decorations (2016-2018)

In 2016 Chesné started to expand the decorations of the garden, a project that lasted until September 2018.

impression of the new decorations 
(September 2018)

* Article on Wikipedia
* Article in Wikiwand
* Article (January 2002) about the Grotto by Jeanine Rivais
Article by Jean-Michel Chesné about the making of the Garden Grotto on SPACES website 
* Article (2011) by Jean-Michel Chesné about the grotto on his weblog 
* Entry (January 2017) with a a series of photos of the new decorations on Sophie Lepetit's weblog
* Article (Spring 2023) by Alla Chernetska about Chesné in Raw Vision #114

* Video (2019, YouTube, 6'31") by Journalistes du Patrimoine

¹ the magazine Zon'art (1999-2008) isn't available anymore on the internet; see also OEE-texts

first published November2008, last revised January 2024

Jean-Michel Chesné
Garden Grotto
92240 Malakoff
Paris, region Île de France, France
can be visited on special occasions and by appointment

No comments:

Post a Comment