The summer of 2021 should bring Arles a new beginning, after this deserted and confined year. Deprived of a 2020 edition, the Rencontres d’Arles are working hard to fine-tune their 2021 program and adapt it to health requirements. For its part, the LUMA Foundation is finally announcing the opening on Saturday, June 26, 2021 of LUMA Arles, the major project of Swiss patron and collector Maja Hoffmann, a “creative campus” of eleven hectares in the Parc des Ateliers in Arles, bringing together the artists and creators of tomorrow.
Created in 2004 by Maja Hoffmann in Arles, the LUMA Foundation has finally announced the opening date of its new building. In the heart of the artistic and cultural complex of the Provençal city, one will be able to visit the immense steel tower erected by the internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry and discover its new exhibition program as of June 26.
If it is not easy for the world of culture and art to survive in these times of prolonged closures of exhibition venues, cinemas and theaters, there is still the possibility for some places and monuments to be seen from the outside. And since an architectural creation is always first and foremost apprehended by its facade and the way it imposes itself in the urban landscape, the LUMA foundation’s facade has had the merit of succeeding in its effect: for several years now, its geometric tower covered with 11,000 smooth steel panels, reflecting the beautiful and powerful light of the south, has dominated the city of Arles. Designed by star architect Frank Gehry to house the exhibitions of this foundation for contemporary art created in 2004, this building joins a series of spaces already reinvested by LUMA in this same area in the south of the city. In its large hall at the foot of the tower, the foundation has regularly organized important exhibitions, such as an exceptional retrospective of the architectural work of designer Jean Prouvé in 2018, or more recently the exhibition “It’s Urgent”, for which the famous curator Hans Ulrich Obrist invited a hundred or so contemporary artists and thinkers to respond with posters to the question “What is urgent today?” While the outcome of the foundation’s ambitious architectural project was still a mystery, the foundation has finally announced the date of its opening to the public in its entirety: June 26.
The 15,000 square meter building, designed by Frank Gehry, will be the heart of the foundation’s artistic and cultural complex as conceived by its founder, Swiss contemporary art collector Maja Hoffmann. With volumes that appear to interlock and grow organically, Frank Gehry’s tower reflects LUMA’s manifesto, which focuses on “direct relationships between art, culture, human rights, environmental issues, education and research,” as announced on its website. About the project, Maja Hoffmann explains: “If there is an image, a metaphor for this 21st century institution, it is that of a living organism. Where the question is no longer whether the spaces are open or closed, but how they function in the present moment: where always, somewhere, something is happening. An organic archipelago …”.
The organic analogy employed by the collector also echoes Frank Gehry’s idea of building design. In a statement, the American-Canadian architect, whose credits include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Cinémathèque Française and the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, explains, “We wanted to evoke the heritage of the place, from Van Gogh’s painting Starry Night [depicting Arles at night] to the rocky stones found in the region. Its central circular structure evokes the layout of the Roman amphitheater in Arles.” A large-scale program that the public will finally be able to discover from the inside at the beginning of the summer.