Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Original Van Gogh Experience in the Carrieres des Lumieres at Les Baux de Provence

I figure that many of you have seen the immersive Van Gogh Experience in one of the many US cities that have offered this program. But how many of you know that the "Van Gogh Starry Night" art and music program was first exhibited in the Carrières des Lumieres at Les Baux de Provence in the South of France from March 1, 2019, to January 5, 2020?

Les Baux de Provence is a picturesque village about 47 miles southwest of our home in Sablet, France. The village sits in a strategic location on a rocky outcrop with ancient houses and a ruined castle perched on top of the village overlooking vineyards and olive groves to the south.

Les Baux de Provence is officially classified as a Les Plus Beaux Villages de France - one of the most beautiful villages of France. The beauty of the village and the surrounding Alpilles mountains, makes Les Baux de Provence a very popular place for tourists all year long as I told you here.

The name Les Baux refers to its site, a baou is a rocky spur. Aluminum ore bauxite was first discovered near Les Baux in 1821 and named after the village of Les Baux de Provence. Bauxite was extensively mined in the area but by the end of the 20th century, the bauxite had been completely extracted. 

Les Baux de Provence

The Carrières des Lumieres is located 800 meters from Les Baux de Provence, a 10-minute walk from the village so you can get there easily if you are parked near the village. There is limited parking near the village or the Carrières des Lumieres, so you may have to walk a little.

Arrival at Les Baux de Provence

The quarry of Les Grands Fonds, now known as the Carrières des Lumieres, was opened in 1800. The area's white limestone was easily worked and was used to build Glanum, the village of Les Baux de Provence and for the construction of the castle of Les Baux.  

As I mentioned earlier, a red mineral was discovered in 1821 in the limestone quarries. The mineral was used to extract aluminum and named bauxite after the nearby village. In 1935 after the first world war, with the emergence of new building materials such as steel and concrete, the quarry closed. 

In 2012, the village of Les Baux entrusted Culturespaces with management of the quarry. Every year since opening, Les Carrières de Lumieres has offered an immersive digital exhibition devoted to a major artist. In 2019, we had the opportunity to see "Van Gogh, Starry Night" in July and again in October.

Entrance to the Carrières de Lumieres

To the right of the entrance, a larger gallery leads you under the mountain, towards an enormous hall divided by huge pillars left by quarry workers to hold up the roof. The 7,000 square meters (75,000 square feet) of walls and ceilings are used as natural screens to project beautiful 14 meter-high (45 feet) images. 

There are no seats per se. Audience members walk around, viewing the changing images from different vantage points as their own shadows are eerily cast on the paintings. Some people sit on a few concrete slabs around the perimeter, some huddle together for warmth. 

The pictures which follow show some of the artwork which was displayed as the program ensued during our visit in July 2019.

In 2023, the Carrières des Lumieres will present two new immersive exhibitions: a long program, "From Vermeer to Van Gogh, the Dutch Masters", and a short program, "Mondrian, the architect of colors".

If you are planning a trip to the South of France, we would be honored if you would consider making our house in Sablet your home for your Sojourn. Please reach out to me for information about availability and rental rates. 

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