Pierre-Jean Rémy

Villa Médicis Publication date : December 11, 2008

Pierre-Jean Rémy was the director of the prestigious French Academy in Rome, from 1994 to 1997. This is the diary that he kept of those years, during which he organised exhibitions, concerts and lectures at the Academy, creating a fertile meeting place for artists, writers and sponsors, from all over the world.

As director, Rémy was in charge of the Academy's pensionnaires (resident artists and scholars), and he has many tales to tell of their occasional eccentricities and demands but also of their immense talent.

His many illustrious predecessors in the task of directing the Villa Medici include the painter Balthus, who breathed new life into the Academy. During the past thirty-five years the Academy has become one of the main centres of French cultural life abroad. The recent nomination of a new director created a stir in the French press, when the initial nominee had to be withdrawn and a new one found.

Founded by Louis XIV to enable French artists to study art and architecture in Rome, the Academy has grown and developed over the centuries. Today, it welcomes writers, scriptwriters, and art historians, among others. For more than two hundred years, the French Academy has been housed in the elegant Villa Medici, in the Borghese Gardens.

Rémy has kept a journal all his life, and his writer's eye observes the intense life of the Villa Medici with enthusiasm — and humour. Obscure squabbles, bureaucratic fantasies, but also great moments of creativity: candidly and indulgently, Rémy recounts life in the idyllic gardens where Berlioz was so unhappy, and in the Villa Medici itself, the object of so many hopes and dreams. In the process, he gives us a taste of life in the surrounding Eternal City, in Roman society, and in Italy.

Balancing caustic wit and poetic reverie, Rémy's diary paints a unique portrait of what is sometimes ironically known as the artistic life; but he also shares the joy he feels at being in and of Rome itself. He reveals to the reader a particular moment in world art and culture, with all its contradictions, during the last years of the past century.

Pierre-Jean Rémy has written more than fifty novels. An opera, theatre and music lover, he recently published a biography on Karajan. He is a member of the Académie Française, and was the recipient of the 1971 Renaudot Prize for Le Sac du Palais d'été, and of the Académie Française's 1986 Grand Prix for fiction for Une ville immortelle.