Corinne Bally settled down in Valencia in 2001 after having visited the city several times as a representative of the European Union responsible for funds designed to help SMEs and to ensure mobility within the Union.
She had previously been deputy director of a Regional Chamber of Commerce in Clermont Ferrand, Auvergne and after a life of extensive travelling decided on Valencia after marrying a Spaniard and deciding that it was one of the nicer Spanish cities.
Wanting to be surrounded by the best that France has to offer, she decided to open Le Pont des Arts, a little shop and café in the historic centre, where Valencian can now buy, both in the shop and on line, exact replicas of all the pieces on exhibit in the Louvre Museum and, increasingly, original handicrafts from other select locations around the world where Corinne has been.
When I spoke to her she had just returned from a trip to Panama to reinforce her relationship with the Molas Kunas. The Kuna Indians live on forty small islands on the Atlantic coast, and the Molas are colourfully decorated parts of their traditional costume.
Corinne’s interest started through her friendship with the Panamanian Consul in Valencia, Rolando Reyna, and she now has exclusive rights to sell fabrics full of animals, flora, which express “ideas, emotions and a vision of the world.”
The shop also brings the exotic art of Nepal to Valencia through a fair trade foundation that allows Valencians to buy ethnic art, mainly silver bathed in gold.
But the mainstay of Corinne’s project is her exclusive right in Spain to sell scale replicas carved in resin of the entire contents of the Louvre Museum.
So anyone who wants to can now have Rodin’s hand or the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet sitting on their coffee table.
The Louvre is original in the sense that two years after its opening it set up a workshop in 1796 to produce authentic replicas of all the pieces ‘borrowed’ from around the world, and it is the very same workshop that today caters to the cultural needs of Spanish Louvre lovers exclusively through Le Pont des Arts, a bridge indeed between Paris and Valencia.
The small café at the back of the shop didn’t just sell 50 kinds of tea, it was also the location of conferences, readings and tastings, where Corinne, who has degrees in Literature and Communication, kept culture alive among all this historic artwork.
Le Pont des Arts shop is now closed, although Corinne continues trading on the Internet.