Pierre Arnaud was straightforward and generous. He was deeply attached to the Valais, a region which doubtless reminded him of his native Provence. He was at ease with the people who, like him, were easy-going and hospitable yet quite reserved at heart. It must be the mountains that forge their character, and he loved the mountains.
Born on 2 February, 1922, he grew up in the South of France. During the Second World War, after the occupation of the Southern Zone, he joined the Resistance and worked for the Civil Defence Service in Marseilles, evacuating the injured after bombing raids. This was how he met his wife, when he unfortunately had to announce the death of her first husband.
The aftermath of war was a period of shortages and rationing in Marseilles as it was all over France. A friend of his in Tangiers urged Pierre to come and join him in what seemed then like a land flowing with milk and honey. Pierre married Suzanne and they left for Tangiers. He shared her life for the next 50 years, helping her bring up the three sons from her first marriage and having a daughter, Sylvie, together.
As he lived by the sea, Pierre Arnaud loved spending his holidays in the mountains and particularly in the heart of the Alps in the Valais. He discovered the high Crans-Montana plateau and fell in love with the region. He bought a small chalet that he gradually extended and then, until the 1990s, patiently acquired several plots of land up around Crans where he built a residence he was to live in till his death in 1996.
It is particular interesting to note that Pierre Arnaud, who succeeded in becoming an experienced mountaineer with the spirit of a mountain-dweller, was primarily a man of the sea making his fortune over the years between Marseilles and Tangiers, and up and down the coast from Tangiers to Casablanca.
Once he settled in Switzerland, Pierre Arnaud made several investments including one which blossomed into a true success story : Fotolabo. During that period he met Michel Lehner, a keen art lover and one of the first collectors of the Savièse School. Pierre Arnaud soon began collecting works by that group of artists. When he died, Suzanne, Sylvie and her husband Daniel continued adding to the collection and decided to honour his memory by creating the Pierre Arnaud Foundation in the village of Lens he loved so dearly.
The charitable Foundation, established in 2007 in memory of the collector and patron Pierre Arnaud, aims to promote the fine arts while more specifically highlighting Swiss painting which it will present in a European context. In order to enhance the cultural and touristic possibilities available on the Crans-Montana plateau, it undertakes to build, run and finance an Art Centre in Lens to organize an international programme of temporary exhibitions and various cultural events.