The Abode of Chaos: art museum or eyesore?

France boasts many art museums. From ancient to contemporary, there is something for everyone. For those seeking a mind bending and unique art experience, try the Abode of Chaos, near Lyon. Only for the most daring, this contemporary art museum pushes limits.

Often, visitors leave entranced and sometimes, disturbed.

The Abode of Chaos immerses visitors in a dystopian world. Tourist website ‘This is Lyon’ warns visitors:

“If you’re looking for comfort, though, for a Sound-of-Music-like waltz in the cobbled countryside, do not, I repeat, do not, come here. You’ll go home a quivering mess.”

The Abode of Chaos: thought provoking art

The Abode of Chaos displays over 6300 works of art from different artists. Installations regularly change and evolve. Around the site, we see graffiti, rusty sculptures, and giant skulls.   

The site is chaotic and dark- a sort of post-apocalyptic junk yard.

Why all the chaos?

In short, the museum seeks to mirror the ongoing and ever-changing chaos in the world. Often, the artwork highlights current events. For example, many pieces feature the likenesses of world leaders, designed to offer political or social commentary.

The entrance is free of charge and visitors can wander through the outdoor site to absorb and interpret the provocative collection.

From the beginning, this museum has attracted interest for its originality. For tourists, it’s a convenient day trip from Lyon, adding to its popularity.

Unlike most museums in France, the Abode of Chaos is only open on weekend afternoons and holidays. Nevertheless, the museum impressively attracts around 180 000 visitors per year.  

The Abode of Chaos versus a sleepy French village

Surprisingly, the Abode of chaos is located right in the middle of a quaint village, Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or.

The eclectic museum harshly contrasts with the village’s stone houses and quiet cobblestone streets. As a result, the museum has been a source of buzz and controversy since its creation.

For example, some residents are disturbed by the flock of visitors. Others refer to the museum as an ‘eyesore.’

Pierre Dumont had been mayor of the Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or for 17 years when the museum was created in 1999. He constantly battled the museum.

In an interview with the New York Times, mayor Dumont described it as:  

“humanly intolerable, ugly, dramatic, with its images of destruction… not art, it’s a provocation.”

‘MyFrenchLife™ ‘MyFrenchLife™ - Abode of chaos - Hermann

Owner and founder of the museum, Thierry Ehrmann, is responsible for shaking up the village.

A businessman turned artist, Ehrmann made his fortune by founding ArtPrice, an online service for determining the cost of art objects.

In 1999, Ehrmann began the multi-million euro project of transforming a 17th century stone house into what is now le Musée l’Organe. It is known more commonly as the Demeure du Chaos or the Abode of Chaos.

The land contained remnants of a protestant church and graveyard with the remains of 800 people. Inspired by the site, Ehrmann began to construct a sort of monument to showcase his diverse religious beliefs. Even today, much of his art is inspired by alchemy and Roman Catholicism.

Eventually, Ehrmann shifted his focus to world issues. He cites September 11th as the turning point. Consequently, he began to comment on subjects like war. He incorporated themes of destruction and hatred.

Lawsuits and controversy

The residents and mayors of Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or are constantly trying to shut down the Abode of Chaos resulting in an ongoing legal battle. For example:

  • In 2009, France’s highest Court, the Cour de Cassation, ruled Erhmann must return the site to its previous state.
  • Incredibly, Ehrmann paid the fine of 30,000 euros and 75 euros per day to maintain the museum
  • Several years later, the Grenoble Court of Appeals raised the fine to 750 euros per day!

Finally, In 2016 Ehrmann declared victory when his museum was protected by a law of freedom of creation.

However, the village still fights to have the Abode of Chaos shut down. Yet, removing it would be an affront to freedom of speech, a hot topic in French society today.

People visit museums for different reasons. Some desire to admire beautiful and valuable artwork. Others seek to be shocked, surprised, and challenged.

The Abode of Chaos certainly provides the latter.

Luckily for us, during the COVID lockdown, the museum is offering virtual visits on their website. So, take a look and see what you think.

Does the Abode of Chaos push the limit too far? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @maviefrancaise

  1. The Abode of Chaos via
  2. La Demeure du Chaos or The Abode of Chaos via
  3. Under 2 hours from Lyon: top 5 day trips via
  4. French city guides: top 10 reasons to visit Lyon via
  5. Twenty years later, the Abode of Chaos continues to fascinate and irritate via
  6. It’s His House. But, Village Traditionalists Ask, Is It Art? via
  7. If you believe in freedom of expression, support Abode of Chaos via
Image Credits:
  1. 9000 m2 d’exposition a ciel ouvert via @demeureduchaos on Instagram
  2. Art contemporain via @laroucor on Instagram
  3. Abode of Chaos from above by Thierry Ehrmann via
  4. Mairie de Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or by Thierry Ehrmann via
  5. Exclusive Interview With Thierry Ehrmann, the Founder and CEO of by Thierry Ehrmann via
  6. Demeure du chaos via @beauchetcarole on Instagram
  7. Hidden Truths via @traveling_orii on Instagram
  8. 9000 m2 d’exposition a ciel ouvert via @demeureduchaos on Instagram
  9. Chaos via @clecdr on Instagram

About the Contributor

Alexis Herrington

Growing up in the United States, I always dreamed of living abroad. After completing degrees in English and French, I was able to live in different parts of France as an English language teacher. I currently live in Bordeaux and work remotely as a copyeditor for Jellysmack's Paris office. I spend the rest of my time exploring this beautiful city and learning as much as I can about French wine.

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