‘I make sculptures with light thanks to my love of architecture. For me, these pieces have to create mystery, an intimate atmosphere, because the thing that is inside architecture is intimacy.’

‘Technically, biscuit porcelain is what you get when you heat clay. I’ve always worked like this because I like raw material. The finish under light is gentle, magnificent. You’d almost think that my pieces are made of stone.’

Guy Bareff has lived many lives. He was born in Macon the son of a ceramic artist who was one of the founders of the legendary Poteries d’Accolay.

At an early age he went to work in his father’s studio… even though he would have preferred to train as an architect.

From the 1960s to the 80s he found success fitting out with sculptural lighting the first Club Méditerranée holiday villages. At the time the concept was revolutionary – a careful blend of architecture and decoration.

After that he was in turn musician, stage actor, writer, yogi and painter… before returning to ceramics after a decade or so, what with the stirrings of the revival movement in the 1960s-70s, which rekindled his passion for creation.

He is an impressive figure. A visit to his studio, a set of huge utilitarian emergency sheds built in the 1950s, in a parched plain at the foot of the Alpilles in Provence, raked by the mistral in winter and scorched by the sun in summer, is a good introduction.

His bearing and appearance, full of calm and poise, do the rest. Of average height, he is wiry, exuding vitality, and with his long silver hair, aquiline nose and coppery complexion… you can’t help thinking of one of Edward Curtis’s photo portraits of an Indian chief.

A dynamo of energy, he manhandles his large and heavy pieces with ease, is full of projects, and shows his creations in leading galleries from Paris to New York. Besides which he finds time to engage in partenerships with young creators, like the gifted visual artist Elsa Oudhoorn in 2021.

Bareff practises ceramic art while thinking architecture and light.

Anticipating a much larger work at the Friche de l’Escalette in 2023, for his first run Guy Bareff has produced two special Tower of winds models.

They reinterpret his former creations of openwork luminous columns, used inside/outside either as lamp or pedestal. The incredible longevity of this model from the 1970s is borne out by a survivor retrieved from a garden, covered in lichen and with a five-decade all-seasons patina.

Apart from this production of lighting in limited series, his studio is also putting out terra cotta modules in high relief with highly contrasting geometric motifs, examples of which are Beirut (2020) presented simply sitting on the ground, or the Hung world sculptures (2010), stranded in sand… The evocation of imaginary ancient architecture is at work here, and what site could be more fitting for them than the ruins of the Friche de l’Escalette.


exhibitionGUY BAREFF