When The Fox met The Rooster and Other Stories

olklore tells of a grand race which cut across impassable snow-capped peaks, and treacherous wind-swept shores. Over one hundred editions of the ‘Grand Boucle’ have rolled this giant loop, each writing the triumphs and tragedies of legendary adversaries.

And so it was, Renert found himself on a soft-sunny morning, sitting upright outside the Café au Réveil-Matin, in Montgeron - a small town on the southern edge of Paris. Shortly, a small man sporting an over-sized newsboy cap parked a bicycle nearby, sat down on the grass, and took a long draw on a dusty bottle of red wine. “Will that effect your ability to cycle?” enquired Renert. The small man fixed his gaze on the fox. “I hope so,” came the response. Renert came to understand the man had once been a chimney sweep, and although born in far off Italy, was trying to embrace the cultures of his new homeland, hence entering a new bicycle race, with high honours at stake. Happily, the chimney sweep would win. 

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2020.

The fine points

IN December 2016, HM Ambassador to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, John Marshall commissioned the British artist James Straffon to explore the concept of an art exhibition, expanding on Straffon’s previous collections devoted to the Tour de France and its vibrant history. This new series would be presented both as an exhibition of large-scale original artworks, and also as a broad array of street artworks located across Luxembourg’s capital and neighbouring communes. Straffon’s response was to provide a new narrative for this extraordinary race - telling the story of the Tour through the eyes of an intrepid fox. This fabler came into being after the artist’s research into Luxembourg’s rich literary history arrived at Michel Rodange, and his national epic, Renert [Renert oder de Fuuß am Frack an a Ma’nsgrëßt], which was published in 1872. Straffon decided to re-engage Renert in a curious, and enlightening act of wanderlust - unearthing the bizarre and remarkable stories wrapped up in the folklore and mythology of the Tour de France, retold through the fox’s chance meetings with its many colourful contenders.

The When The Fox met The Rooster project, with its various associated components,
is indebted to the following sponsorship and support:

HM Ambassador John Marshall and the staff at the British Embassy
Ms Claire Jordan
Ville de Luxembourg
Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy
Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Luxembourg Ministry of Sport
Luxembourg Ministry of Tourism
GreatArt, Alton, Hampshire, UK
Barry Hoban
Basic & Bespoke, Luxembourg
Honey / Mustard, Luxembourg
Bar Rocas, Luxembourg

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2020.

An unveiling from the Duchess of Cambridge

On 11th May 2017, the Duchess of Cambridge visited Luxembourg on her second solo trip, to mark 150 years of the Treaty of London. Among many engagements during this brief visit the Duchess attended a specially organised festival in Luxembourg's Place Clairefontaine. This event was largely themed around cycling, becoming a semi-official launch of Luxembourg’s Tour de France program.

The British Embassy, in conjunction with Luxembourg’s Ministry of Economy, took the opportunity to commission James to create a special diptych piece - featuring two of the artists featuring in his When The Fox met The Rooster exhibition. Charly Gaul and Tom Simpson were chosen - with Gaul’s wife Josée, and daughter, Fabienne in attendance to unveil half of the artwork, as the Duchess revealed Tom Simpson on the opposite edge of the large-scale diptych.

“Have you done this before?” the Duchess asked James, while drawing back the red curtain covering his artwork.

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2020.

The Twelve

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2020.

The Catalogue

All artwork, text and images © James Straffon 2020.