A little town in Provence has become an art mecca: Arles. It is quite well-known that Van Gogh spent time in Arles - Gauguin, Picasso (with his passion for bull fights) and Réattu...
Arles is also the site of a grand photography festival each summer: Les Rencontres d’Arles where dozens of photographers’ work are exhibited in spaces across the entire town (a tradition 50 years running).
More recently, Maja Hoffmann undertook an ambitious contemporary art initiative: LUMA Arles. LUMA Arles is a campus for contemporary artistic creation. Maja Hoffmann describes the Foundation: “There is one driving metaphor for LUMA Arles: that of a living organism.” One, indeed, has this distinct sensation when visiting the landscape park (by Bas Smets), the industrial buildings (by Annabelle Selldorf) and The Tower (by Frank Gehry).
The site is a former railway facility (long abandoned) and has been transformed into a grand park. It is a celebration of the Camargue (Arles is the capital of the Camargue region), with local flora and fauna featured prominently.
Exhibitions are found throughout the entire campus, with many permanent features in the main and visually astounding Tower by Gehry. Gehry has said he was inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night - the reflections and movement in the painting, as well as the grand Roman arena that is an iconic monument of Arles.
This impressive metal tubing is indeed a double slide - for adults, children, all visitors - by Carsten Höller. A general museum space can feel rather formal and this exhibition, in particular, creates a sort of break in that rubric. The act of sliding produces an emotion between "delight and madness" and disrupts the act of taking oneself seriously. Holler describes the piece: "A slide is a sculpture that you can travel inside". Just delightful.
The magical part of a visit to LUMA Arles is the sensation that one is enveloped in art on every side. Much of it is interactive.
The walls of the elevator banks are also an art installation: "Wall of Salt" designed by Atelier LUMA in collaboration with Les Salins du Midi and designer Karlijn Sibbel. These walls are made of salt crystalizing naturally on metal sunk into salt marshes of the Camargues.
Visitors can go to the very top of the Gehry Tower and take in a panorama of Arles, the Camargue and the entire region.
There are also lovely cafés and restaurants on the campus.
LUMA Arles is a wonderful place to come with children - the space includes a glow-in-the-dark skate park, designed by Korean artist Koo Jeong A.
A visit to Provence would be incomplete without dedicating time to Arles, and more specifically to the magnificent initiative of Maja Hoffmann: LUMA Arles.