architecture / art / books / education / history / landscape / people

Les Yeux du Monde Gallery

Photographer, Scott Smith

On a sunny autumn Saturday afternoon in November, I took some time to visit Lyn Bolen Warren at her rural hilltop home and gallery twelve miles Northeast of downtown Charlottesville. It sits high and well away from the road leading up through a forest, and when rounding the final bend, what appears is the panorama of a Piedmont vista framed by two very unique modern buildings. On the left is villa-like series of residential pavilions for her family and on the right is a new art gallery designed by W G Clark sandwiched between walls translucent glass block and sheets of Corten steel. Beyond this is a gently sloping grassy meadow, and beyond that is a humble gable form horse barn set into the trees.

All in all, it’s just an amazing place to be – a true respite for one’s soul. I left with the sense that Lyn is a special person with a purposeful vision, and I am thrilled to share her mission with you here.

Interview with Lyn Bolen Warren | by Josh McCullar

Lyn WarrenQ. With a background in modern art history, you originally began hosting artist receptions and shows in your home on the outskirts of Charlottesville before opening Les Yeux du Monde Gallery in downtown Charlottesville. Over a decade later (14 years and 17 since inception), you returned the gallery to where it began, on your rural property in a new modern building. What drove that decision and how did the building come to be?

{Lyn Warren, left | Jen Fariello, Photographer}

A. Yes, I actually named the gallery Les Yeux du Monde (the Eyes of the World) when I started having the receptions and shows in my home in 1995, referring to the incredible views of Charlottesville and the mountains from this spot just off of 20 North. Even then I dreamed of building a separate gallery on the land, and our architect Kate Nesbitt who designed the house, included a separate gallery in a Master Plan. In 1999 I moved the gallery from the house to West Main Street in Charlottesville for three years and then to the downtown mall off of Water Street for six years. When my husband Russ Warren retired from teaching art in 2008, we realized that he would need a studio and perhaps now was the time to try to build on the land that inspired the gallery’s name. I had admired W.G. Clark’s work for a long time, even before I knew that he was teaching in Charlottesville, so it seemed especially fortuitous when he agreed to the project.

Exterior Details

Q. The new gallery is art unto itself and a real piece of sculpture. What was the design process like with W G Clark?

A. It was a dream, pure and simple. After meeting with W.G. and his one and only assistant, another brilliant architect, Josh Stastny at their office to hear about the process, I drove W.G. to the site. His first remark – “Jefferson didn’t have it any better than this at Monticello” – was encouraging. Siting the gallery was crucial. We had 30 acres to work with, but he chose to keep all of the buildings (house, garage and gallery) in close proximity to one another. He and Josh came up with three possible sites for the building and built models of each to show us in relation to the house. One model was more finished than the others and it was the one that was the obvious choice. All Russ and I told him was that we each needed a space to work, but still wanted the spaces to be connected somehow. They came up with the perfect solution and we were continually surprised by each and every amazing detail. Peter Johnson was excellent at interpreting and building and Josh oversaw the project while Russ and I were able to sit back and witness the masterpiece come into being.

Q. What was your childhood like and did it expose you to art or inspire that interest in you?

Lyn and the childrenA. I grew up on a farm in Galax Virginia, and was, for most of my childhood and teen years more interested in horses than in art! My first real exposure to art was at Davidson College. I majored in art history because those classes were the most exciting to me.  I also had to take three studio courses as an art history major and I realized it was much harder to make great art than to study it! I really became hooked when I traveled and saw the works I had studied face to face. This was particularly important the summer after college during an internship I had at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I had the luxury to spend, for example, a whole lunch hour with one painting at the Metropolitan or hours before work with the Van Gogh drawings at the Guggenheim. Those experiences are what really motivated me to continue to want to work with art itself, not just slides and books. So throughout graduate school I also worked at the UVA Bayly (now Fralin) Art Museum, and this desire to stay in touch with the actual art I’m sure also factored into my decision to open the gallery.

Q. What has been the mission of Les Yeux du Monde since inception, and has it evolved or remained the same?

A. The mission has always been to educate, inspire and disseminate the best in modern and contemporary art and ideas. The methods and ways of doing this may change, but the mission is still the same – to exhibit and sell the best art available while offering educational opportunities about the art. I show what I think is art historically important and what I think has staying power.

Q. You speak fondly of your good friend and former teacher Lydia Gasman. Who was she?

A. I could go on forever about Lydia Gasman. She grew up in Romania and was later a painter there winning many awards and the largest studio, but she was forced to paint in the Social Realist style. She planned her escape and left in1961. She went through Israel (where her family was after WWII) and Paris where she was captivated by Picasso and other modernist artists. Upon arrival in New York with her husband, she decided to go to Columbia for her doctorate in art history. Here she wrote an exhaustive and groundbreaking dissertation, Magic, Mystery, and Love in Picasso, 1928-1938 that changed the direction of Picasso studies. Yale offered to publish it and gave her a contract, but she refused to edit it, and instead started working feverishly on Picasso’s writings during the war years. Not many make royalties from dissertations but she did. And probably hers was the only dissertation to be reviewed in the New York Review of Books, which John Richardson did in 1984. Most every major Picasso scholar and book since then has been indebted to her scholarship in some way.

Q. It is intriguing that Lydia left her collection of books and writings to you. What are you going to do with it?

A. She left all of her papers, manuscripts and books to me and Victoria Beck Newman, my best friend from graduate school who was also one of Lydia’s doctoral students. There are over 170 boxes of books, notes and papers, many with her unique coding and note taking system of all colors of magic markers and sticky notes on legal pads, then arranged in files by theme. We formed the Lydia Csato Gasman Archives (LCGA) for Picasso and Modernist Studies and have received the status of a 501(3) (c) non profit foundation to help us in our mission to preserve and disseminate her important contributions to the scholarship. After having all of the papers scanned, the LCGA will seek to publish for a wider audience her dissertation and her later self published book War and the Cosmos in Picasso’s Texts, 1936-1940. Then we hope to publish her lectures on Modernism, which are also just as groundbreaking for others artists and areas as her dissertation was for Picasso studies. She was always searching and breaking through all of the interpretations to date, using the most recent methods and critical theories and still coming up with a brilliant thoroughly worked out new interpretation. Hundreds of students flocked to her classes to hear these inspirational lectures, and she never repeated the same lecture twice. So all of this will be a project!  In the future we also hope to bring great Picasso and modernist scholars to Charlottesville for symposia and to offer fellowships to younger promising scholars in the field.

Q. What will be the legacy of Les Yeux du Monde?

A. I hope that it will have played a role in disseminating great art and ideas to as many people as possible. I also believe its legacy will be intertwined with that of many of the important artists I carry – Dean Dass, Sanda Iliescu, Annie Harris Massie, Lincoln Perry, David Summers, Russ Warren, and of course Lydia Gasman. Architect and artist Sanda Iliescu, another Romanian says, “Modernism is not over, there’s still more to be done.” I agree with her and hope that Les Yeux du Monde will be remembered as having supported and continued the modernist project in a meaningful way.


Images courtesy of Les Yeux du Monde Gallery


5 thoughts on “Les Yeux du Monde Gallery

  1. Pingback: Russ Warren’s Music and Magic | v a M O D E R N

  2. Pingback: a Conversation with David Summers | v a M O D E R N

  3. A thorough and warm-hearted interview and great documentation of the gallery. Lyn and Russ have created a true Virginia treasure. Thankfully, it’s a well-appreciated destination.

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