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The town of Cognac is witnessing the birth of a fine cultural institution: for the past four years the Martell company foundation has been gradually taking its bearings in a former factory with the ambition of establishing a center dedicated to contemporary creation but also to know-how. Let’s discover it…

When industrial heritage gives way to contemporary art

The foundation is housed in a building constructed by Martell in 1928, an impressive modernist structure that has long served as a bottling plant.

Abandoned in 2005, the factory waited a long time for its reconversion and it was finally in 2014 that the decision was taken to make it a foundation dedicated to contemporary creation and know-how. The project was written in 2016, but the old factory still had to be adapted to its new functions. The Brochet-Lajus-Pueyot firm was entrusted with this challenge: the first works were carried out in 2017 making it possible to open the ground floor and the roof terrace in 2018. Rehabilitation of the entire 6,000 m² site is continuing today.

The ground floor is already dedicated to temporary exhibitions; the first floor called “Les Ateliers du Faire” welcomes artists and craftsmen in residence with all the necessary equipment to work with wood, glass, ceramics, paper or fabric. Finally, since 2018, the fifth floor has housed the Indigo, a terrace bar with a panoramic view of the city of Cognac.

Places to be: an exhibition in the shape of a giant Cluedo

Now and until January 2, 2022, the Martell Corporate Foundation invites you to discover an exhibition like no other. “Places to be” takes the form of a large house made up of eleven rooms like a gigantic Cluedo set where the mystery is of course not murder but creation!

Each of these rooms has been entrusted to a designer with the mission of making it habitable and usable by visitors who can make the place their own! Moreover, none of the designers were aware of the projects imagined by the others, so each piece has its own identity. In collaboration with the artisans in residence at Les ateliers du Faire, the designers designed unique objects that visitors are allowed to move / try / use.

Each piece takes place in circular stainless steel vats created by the Chalvignac Group. Accustomed to creating vats for wine-making activities, the company has taken up the game of artistic creation to create this unusual house. From the entrance hall to the dance floor, through the bedroom, living room, kitchen and library, the exhibition is an invitation to a journey into the world of design.

Three rooms to discover in the exhibition

To give you a foretaste of the exhibition without spoiling the surprise of discovering this beautiful space, here are my three favorite rooms:

The playroom, by Yuan Yuan

The Chinese designer Yuan Yuan has designed a playroom on the theme of the cloud. This dreamlike room has something to charm children and adults alike: Yuan Yuan invites us to smell and touch her creations: here an olfactory cloud, there a device that plays with light, there a wall covered with China paper on which we can draw ephemerally with a wet brush…

Great dreamers can go so far as to literally live the expression “to have one’s head in the clouds” by slipping one’s head into a paper cloud that encloses a poetic universe.

The Library, by Jenny Feal

Jenny Feal is Franco-Cuban, so to make this library she was inspired by the story of her Cuban grandfather who was persecuted by Fidel Castro’s regime. At first glance this piece is surprising: in a library one expects to see books everywhere but here there are none, or rather only one.

The Martell Foundation: the new place(s) to be in Cognac ! 8

A dry ceramic book evokes the library that could not be opened, the books that could not be written because the writers were condemned to silence or those that disappeared because they were burned. Around this book, the various emblematic objects of cuba like a hammock, a hat or a white shirt tinted red at the heart level evoking a painful past.

White and red are precisely the dominant colours of the room: red symbolizing hope and a common destiny, and white symbolizing individual freedom and the white page where the writer can write what he wishes.

Jenny Feal’s library is therefore a very engaged work that one must take the time to understand but which is rich in many emotions.

The Guest Room, by Porky Hefer

Let’s change universes with this guest room which was imagined as a cocoon that you create to welcome your friends. Here, the bed takes the shape of a nest covered with a pretty duvet that swings to rock us better.

The floor is covered with walnut shells that create a warm atmosphere and give the impression of walking in the undergrowth. A space so enchanting that we would like to have a similar bed at home!

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The Martell Foundation tomorrow

The foundation continues to grow as its building is rehabilitated. Soon, the second floor will be home to “L’univers du savoir”, a digital space; the third floor will be a factory of happiness integrating a coworking area and a cafeteria; the fourth floor will be an office space and reception area for school children. These new spaces should open their doors in 2021.

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Useful informations

16 avenue Paul Firino Martell
16100 Cognac

Opening hours:
Thursday to Saturday from 2 to 8 pm
Sundays from 11am to 5pm
Guided tour on Wednesdays from 11am to 4pm (by reservation)


Free entrance
€7 for Wednesday guided tours

Article produced in collaboration with the Martell Foundation. Thanks to Maxime for his welcome and to Anne-Lise from l’Art en Plus agency.

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