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Art: Palais des Vaches

Step through the door of the Palais des Vaches, Caroline and Nicholas de Rothschild’s impressive New Forest art gallery and events space.

A former goat barn is an unlikely setting to find fine art. More unusual still, a giant copper dragon and a member of the de Rothschild family. But that’s exactly what I discover when I walk into this new art and events space. Welcome to Palais des Vaches, a brand new gallery in the New Forest.

Dating back 150 years, but not used for farming since the 1970s, the Palais des Vaches was once derelict agricultural buildings. Now, artist Caroline de Rothschild (above) and her husband, Nicholas de Rothschild, president of the nearby Exbury Gardens, have sympathetically renovated it. And there’s a real wow factor to the space.

Using local trades, the de Rothschilds added underfloor heating, an event kitchen and courtyard area for outdoor dining. Rather than ‘rip and replace’, where possible, they’ve kept original features like the beams and tiling. Outside, I spot a butterfly garden with views over the Solent, earmarked for an outdoor sculpture space.

As I tour the gallery, I meet the amazing self-taught sculptor Long Ly. The artist had a turbulent childhood, forced to flee Vietnam at just eight years old. Unusually, his work is painstakingly constructed from upcycled metal – everything from pots and pans to silver spoons and ski boot clips – and assembled without any welding.

Some of Ly’s works, which span real and mythical beasts, are excitingly futuristic. Others I find surprisingly delicate for the material. His ‘Corona Dragon’, for example, comprises 2,000 scales, all hand cut from recycled copper pots. Wow. The sculpture varies in size, too, from a large raging bull and giant seahorse, to a space-age, robotic-looking fly and an intricate hummingbird.

Murmurings about Long Ly in the art world are already growing louder and no wonder – watch this space…

See work by artist-in-resident Caroline de Rothschild, sculptor Long Ly and other New Forest artists at Les Palais des Vaches, Exbury. A new joint exhibition with the Coastal Gallery in Lymington opens on Saturday November 20, from 11am – 4pm, by appointment.

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