Following our day trip to Marseille and lunch at Le Petit Nice Passedat, we arrived in Arles where we were set to spend the next three days. Arles is a charming town in the south of France with its own Coliseum and Amphitheater.
In addition to being famous for its time as the home of Vincent van Gogh during the zenith of his career, Arles recently welcomed the new headquarters of the world-reknown LUMA Foundation. Established in 2004, the LUMA Foundation is the brain child of Maja Hoffmann, beneficiary of the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical fortune, and is focused on art and photography.
Named after her children – Marina and Lucas – the foundation’s new home in poverty-striken Arles is no accident. Motivated by her own childhood memories of the area, Maja saw this place as the perfect opportunity to bring together the cultural and natural worlds, and subsequently spark the economic rebirth of the town.
The Frank Gehry Building
The LUMA Arles art campus is a giant architectural undertaking in Parc des Ateliers, and is the foundation’s attempt to imagine and create a cultural institution of a new type. The sprawling 20-acre campus will boast over 100,000 square feet of exhibition space. Partially housed in a former train factory and rail yard, the project is set to be completed by 2020 with its indisputable star being a 56-meter building by Frank Gehry.
Gehry’s unmistakable and provocative style is by far the tallest structure in the area and is really impossible to miss. We were very lucky to be given a private tour while the structure is still under construction and see the skeleton of this future masterpiece.
The cultural complex is set to house exhibition spaces, archives, artists’ residences, and public spaces, welcoming everyone who wants to visit.
We went all the way up to the rooftop of the last floor and the view was simply breathtaking! If you look carefully you can se the entire Coliseum and the expansive Alycamps – one of the old world’s most famous Roman necropolises.
Gilbert & George:
The Great Exhibition (1971 – 2016)
It was so fun to visit during the fantastic exhibition of London-based artists Gilbert and George. The duo is known for their highly formal appearance and provocative, brightly coloured graphic-style, photo-based artworks.
Their pursuit of a better, more utopian, world through liberation in thinking and expression is on full display in their works. Complex, overtly sexual and unashamedly “in your face”, they take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to look at the world through the eyes of two dreamers, always looking for ways to improve.
I know I am super predictable, but my absolute favourite exhibition was The Pixel Forest by Swiss-based artist Pipilotti Rist. It is so easy to lose yourself in the breathtaking installation made up of 300 LED lights, which creates the illusion of a forest of twinkling lights.
Walking through the newly refurbished rail yard it is easy to see how art can be a unifier. People from all different walks of life are brought together by curiosity, and united in their desire to learn a little more about the world around us.
In addition to the exhibitions and installations already happening at the campus, one of my favourite parts of our visit was the tour around Atelier Luma.
The goal of the think tank is to co-develop new ways to deal with waste and explore alternative use for locally sourced materials, as well as innovative ways of production. A lot the prototypes we saw had come from algae, salt and rice, and they were not only beautifully deigned but also served a purpose – tiles, key cards (the pebble-looking thing in my hand!), and tableware.
It’s so important to focus of utilising waste and it is truly reassuring to know that there are people and organisations who have committed to lessening and reversing some of the negative impact we have had on our surroundings.
One of the most important things which Luma is doing for the local community is that the foundation has welcomed all locals to come tour the campus and ask any questions they may have. The integration and support of the people from the area is key in order for the project to interweave seamlessly in the area’s creative spirit.
And, yes – they definitely had some really cool stuff to play around with: