Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Chagall Show Opens in Les Baux March 4

The Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is a magical space in a vast cave-like quarry at the base of the village of Les Baux. There in the cool darkness, close to 100 video projectors and 27 speakers generate the choreographed movement of 3,000 images over an area of more than 75,000 square feet, onto walls as high as 45 feet, onto the ceilings and even the floor. The sound-and-light show changes roughly once a year and has become one of the most-popular sites in Provence. Since its opening in 2012, Les Carrières de Lumières has attracted more than 1.6 million visitors

The 2015 show, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael: Giants of the Renaissance, was unveiled on March 6, 2015, closed last month and drew 513,000 visitors.

The new show, called Chagall: Midsummer Night's Dreams, will be unveiled on March 4 and will run through January 8, 2017. 

The Chagall show represents the first time that the folks at the Carrières de Lumières  have assembled an exhibit focusing on a single artist...and most of his best-known masterpieces have been digitized for projection here.

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985) was born Moishe Shagal, the eldest of nine children in a Lithuanian Jewish family in Liozna, near Vitebsk in Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire) . He moved to Paris in 1910 and earned his French nationality in 1937. Chagall worked  in virtually every artistic medium, including painting, book illustration, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints. Art critic Robert Hughes called him "the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century" although Chagall saw his work as "not the dream of one people but of all humanity." The artist is buried in the town cemetery in St. Paul de Vence, on the French Riviera.

This multimedia exhibit is intended to provide a journey through all the major phases of the artist’s career. Chagall: Midsummer Night’s Dreams is a story in 12 parts: Vitebsk, Life, Poetry, Collages, The War, Stained Glass, The Opéra Garnier, Daphnis and Chloé, Mosaics, The Circus, Illustrations and The Bible. It presents Chagall’s creativity in all its diversity,,, and his multiple sources of inspiration. The universal themes of love, the family, roots, the landscape, the circus, war, and music are perfectly showcased within the dramatic, magical setting of Les Carrières. 

The choice of the soundtrack accompanying the show was guided by pianist Mikhaïl Rudy, a close friend of Chagall’s.

The Carrières de Lumières are located in the Val d’Enfer, a stone's throw from Les Baux. The quarries here first produced white limestone, used in the construction of the village of Les Baux and its château. In 1821, the aluminum ore bauxite was discovered here by geologist Pierre Berthier, who named it after the village. In 1935, economic competition from modern materials led to the quarries' closure. Dramatic and otherworldly looking, the area has inspired artists of all sorts; it provided the setting for Dante’s Divine Comedy and Gounod created his opera Mireille here. Later, Cocteau came to film The Testament of Orpheus in these very quarries. Formerly known as the Cathedrale des Images, this particular quarry was closed in 2011 and re-opened (after a €2 million re-do) as the Carrières de Lumières in early 2012, under the management of CulturespacesThe Carrières du Val d’Enfer have been awarded Natural Monument status in France. 

For opening hours, prices, directions and more, click here.

Route de Maillane  
13520 Les Baux de Provence 
Tel: +33 4 90 54 47 37

Photos: (1) Rendering of the Carrières de Lumières lit up with the new Chagall show. (2, 3) Two of the many well-known Chagall paintings that have been digitized for projection. More than 3000 images are used in the show.  (4, 5) A photo of the artist (photographer unknown) and a 1956 portrait by Marie Vorobieff.  If you're visiting the Cote d'Azur, don't miss the Chagall Museum in Nice. (6) The quarry in daylight. (7) Another section of the vast space is lit beautifully for private parties and other events. (8) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo

Note: A exhibit called Marc Chagall: Le Cirque will be on view at the Musée Yves Brayer, on the hill in Les Baux, from May 2 to September 29, 2016. For info, contact the museum or the Tourist Office

Another note: Want to spend the night in a quarry? Sure you do! All the details on one very cool Luberon rental are here

Sunday, February 14, 2016

In Chicago, Sleep in Van Gogh's Bedroom

If somehow you're lucky enough to snag a reservation, you could spend the night in a startlingly realistic recreation of Van Gogh's bedroom...not in the South of France but in a doorman high-rise in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

The room was commissioned by the Art Institute of Chicago, in conjunction with their new show, Van Gogh's Bedrooms. The show and the nearby room officially open today and will remain intact until May 10. 

The museum exhibit focuses on Van Gogh's "quest for home" and, in particular, the three paintings the made of his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles during 1888 and 1889. The famous Dutch artist moved 37 times in his short 37-year life.

The show features all three of the famous paintings, one on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, one from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the third from the Art Institute's own collection. More than 30 additional works--and a scale replica of the bedroom--round out the exhibit, with large screens scrolling images and text from Van Gogh's letters and sketchbooks, and music tying it all together. 

Those who do get to book the room will pay just $10 for the night...with tickets to the show thrown in. The rental is listed on Airbnb here and written in Van Gogh's voice; the photos are fantastic so have a look whether you actually want to stay here or not. If you do, good luck with that: the first block of nights were snapped up immediately and you'll need to check the museum's social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebookto find out when more will be released.

From a publicity standpoint alone, the rental room was pretty genius, generating enormous press for the museum exhibit in the Guardian, Adweekthe New York Post and, just to name a few. 

"It's sort of crazy how excited people are over the project," said Glenn Ragaishis in the Chicago Tribune; he oversaw the room's fabrication at Ravenswood Studio, the local company that, more typically, builds sets for Lyric Opera and other theater companies. 

"Who wouldn't want to spend the night inside a painting of a rustic garret that once belonged to a suicidal Dutch post-impressionist?" asks (which goes on to call the room "cramped and creepy" looking).

The rental, equipped with cable and Wi-Fi, will remain intact until the exhibition's May 10 closing. 

The first overnight guest, staying tonight, will be Robby Sexton, the Art Institute's social media manager. His goal, he says, when he writes about his stay on the museum's Facebook page and elsewhere, "will be to make people feel as jealous as possible."
Other nights have been reserved for "social influencers," artists and bloggers, who will of course be chronicling the experience.
"We hope it's a way to bring fresh eyes and fresh perspective to the painting, which has long been an icon of our permanent collection," says the Art Institute's Amanda Hicks.

To watch a short, touching video in which curator Gloria Groom explains why having a bedroom of his own was so important to Van Gogh, click here.

To learn more about Van Gogh and the paintings, you might enjoy the story

And for all the show details, visit the Art Institute website here.

Photos: (1) The recreated "Bedroom in Arles," in Chicago's River North, is  theoretically rentable on Airbnb for $10 per night. Follow the Art Institute on Twitter and Facebook to find out when. (2) The room is an amalgamation of the three paintings Van Gogh did of his bedroom; all three are in Chicago for the show. Pictured is one from 1889.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Where to Stay in Provence? A Roman Quarry!

Calling all wanna-be cave dwellers! Get in touch with your inner troglodyte by vacationing in this one-of-a-kind stone home, built within a Roman quarry in Provence.

Located five km from Bonnieux--near the villages of Gordes and Roussillon--the Carriere St. Symphorian is the home and studio of husband-and-wife architects Philippe and Lien Jonathan and their two boys ages 8 and 11.  And they love to welcome travelers from all over the world.

Philippe, who lived in nearby Aix as a child, first fell in love with the Luberon while biking its winding roads as a teenager. He went on to a career in Paris, built the quarry house as a vacation property and moved the family to Provence full time in 2013. Today he designs residential projects across the South of France--houses, gardens, pools and greenhouses--as well as public buildings in France and elsewhere. Lien works with Philippe on all projects...and you can see their striking work here

Looking for property in the Luberon back in late 1990s, Philippe wanted something "different and challenging"--not the typical mas or bastide. When a realtor showed him the site in 1997, it was derelict, overrun with vegetation and had been on the market for many years.

"Previous buyers had been put off by its inaccessibility and lack of services," Ruth Corbett wrote in a Sunday Times Magazine story in 2012. "But Philippe was mesmerized from the moment he set foot in it."

"I am an architect which means I am a rational man," Philippe chimes in, "but concerning this I am irrational. I felt that the place had chosen me."

The quarry dates officially to the 12th century but archaeologists say that Romans were cutting limestone here 2000 years ago. Stones from this quarry were used to build the nearby Apta Julia Theater and the Château de Buoux, among others. During the final chapter of the quarry's life, workers excavated the mountain itself using the “chamber and pillar” technique, which resulted in the space that the Jonathans now call home. At one point 20 workers lived in its humble dwellings, until it was finally abandoned in 1930.  It took Philippe and Lien ten years to transform the rubble into this magical property.

"There are not so many places where I feel so good," Philippe told the Times.

There are a couple different ways you can stay here. You can rent a room in the quarry house (it's called "Situation Exceptionnelle" on Airbnb)...or rent a small separate house called the Eagle's Nest. During the month of August, you can rent the entire property, although the first two weeks are already taken.  Occasionally the Jonathans also rent out the grounds for events such as art exhibits, concerts and weddings.

The "Situation Exceptionnelle" (quarry room) is for two people only, consisting of a bedroom with a 160 cm bed,  bathroom (shower, sink and toilet) and a small living room/lounge.  The 60-square-meter Eagle's Nest--with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small lounge area with a fridge--can accommodate a couple with two children. 

All guests have use of the infinity pool--carved into the rock, with exceptional views of the Luberon and three historical monuments--plus the pool house with its small outdoor kitchen.

The property has three hectares of outdoor space so you and your imagination can run wild in a totally tranquil setting.

The Luberon is a vast regional "parc naturel" and one of the most-popular areas of Provence. The serene rolling landscape of farms and vineyards is dotted with perched Medieval villages and laced with paths and trails, perfect for hiking and biking. Tennis, golf, kayaking, hot-air ballooning, historical sites and multiple outdoor markets are nearby. Bonnieux is roughly one hour from the Avignon TGV (high-speed train) station, from Aix and from the Marseille/Marignane Airport.

Rates for the quarry room and Eagle's Nest are range from 130€ to 170€  per night, including breakfast, for a minimum of three nights. 

Want more info?

See a video of Philippe and his family at home here....

Read the Times Magazine story here (if you have Times access) or here  (if you don't)...

And see the "Situation Exceptionelle" and the Eagle's Nest on Airbnb here and here. (Change the language to English at the very bottom of the screen, then click "translate" within the text itself.)

Then, for further questions and booking, contact Philippe:, +33 4 90 71 70 88.

Photos:  (1 to 6) Various indoor and outdoor spaces including the room (photo #6)--called "Situation Exceptionelle" on Airbnb--that you can rent. (7) The stone infinity pool and its view. (8) At night, parts of the quarry site have made a mystically beautiful space for concerts and other performances. (9) Come into our cave: Lien and Philippe love to welcome guests from all over the world.  (10) A site overview from Google Maps.  Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Still looking for the perfect Provence vacation rental? We can help! Email me: