A Magnificent Tower in Van Gogh’s Arles
The city of Arles of Southern France is well known for Vincent Van Gogh who lived there between 1888 and 1889, during which he produced many paintings and drawings of the city. This beautiful French city has a new city icon, a contemporary art campus named LUMA Arles. With its Frank-Gehry designed tower that rises above five historic buildings, LUMA Arles has already become an icon in the minds -and hearts of Arles’ inhabitants and tourists.
LUMA Arles is an experimental contemporary art space that is dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to produce and experiment new work. It has a mission to make close collaboration between artists, curators, scientists, innovators and audiences possible. In this respect, the art center not only houses artists in artist hubs and studios but also brings the most innovative and hit exhibitions, art projects, seminars and events to the public.
The story of LUMA Arles starts with Swiss collector Maja Hoffmann, who’s the president of the Van Gogh Foundation’s board of directors and the founder of the LUMA Foundation. Back in 2014, Hoffmann decided to create a new artistic and cultural hub in the city where she grew up. Regarding her city she says ‘’the big skies (of Arles) are something I think about wherever I am.”
Under her direction, in 2014, the LUMA Foundation bought an industrial site- the SNCH rail yard, the house of a former railway factory. That’s how the ambitious construction project of a vibrant artistic and cultural hub with a cost of an estimated €100 million took a start. Today, LUMA Arles is defined as ‘’art campus’’ which encompasses five historic industrial buildings, a main building and Frank Gehry-designed tower.
What makes LUMA Arles an icon is certainly the glistening tower. Designed by world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry- whose name you might know from the building projects of Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Louis Vuitton Fondation in Paris, the tower reflects a multi-disciplinary approach. Made of over 10.000 stainless steel boxes, the tower mixes contemporary art, urbanism and architecture, and hence aims to create a dialogue with the landscape of the city of Arles.
The tower rises to a height of 56 meters. It has an irregular form, protruding shapes, which represent the rock clusters typical to the region. The central drum is located at the heart of the tower, and it is a reference to the Roman amphitheatre of Arles. The tower will house a variety of different programs, including research facilities, workshop and seminar rooms, and artist studios. Some parts of the tower are open to visits, while the other parts will be opened in 2020.
Five of the historic buildings, on the other hand, they were opened to the public in July 2018. Restored by New York’s Selldorf Architects, these buildings house refurbished railway warehouse studios and exhibition spaces. They currently host LUMA Arles’ artistic programme made of vibrant exhibitions and projects. During 2 July-4 November 2018, important artists such as Pipilotti Rist, Arthur Jafa, Amar Kanwar and Lily Ganun present a selection of their latest works.
Another hit exhibition ‘’Gilbert and George: The Great Exhibition’’ celebrates the life and artistic collaboration of Gilbert and George. The exhibition will be on display between 2 July 2018-6 January 2019, after which it is planned to travel to Sweeden Moderna Museum, Norway Astrup Fearnley Museum and Iceland Reykjavik Art Museum. Another important project ‘’Do we dream under the same sky’’ is an artist pavilion led by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, and architects Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller. It engages with the idea of an artistic utopia, presenting an ecological and sustainable model for future artistic practice.
With its mission, industrial outlook and iconic tower, LUMA Arles has already become a world-renowned art center. At times when art’s power to bring people together is highly recognized, LUMA Arles will continue increasing its importance and place in the global art sector.