Estuaire is a threefold biennale on the Loire estuary, between the city of Nantes and St Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France. In 2007, 2009 and 2012, artists from around the world have dotted the river banks with their work, some of which will stay permanently. One such piece is Serpent de l’océan by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, a skeleton snake on the edge of the sea to be colonised by marine life at high tide and visible at low tide.
The estuary is known as an industrial area with a long history of shipbuilding. There are, however, large unexploited spaces, mostly marshes, where nature has remained intact. By taking art outdoors, Estuaire not only makes art accessible to all, it also encourages people to visit the area, has prompted the creation of cycle paths for eco-friendly access, and has brought a few small businesses such as crêperies and hostels.
Thanks to this contemporary art project, the area, which was previously perceived as dull and devoid of public interest, is now enjoying a novel wave of curiosity, a feeling of community and a developing economy, all revolving around a love of nature and sustainability.
This is a rare instance of wild land being used in a profitable manner with respect for the environment in mind. It has already raised interest from other European cities that may consider following suit. Meanwhile, Voyage à Nantes, the city’s next art project, will attempt to maintain the creative momentum.
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