Sunday, May 5, 2019

Van Gogh Show Now Open in Les Baux

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The Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Light) is a magical space in a vast cave-like quarry at the base of the hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence. There in the cool darkness, 100 video projectors and 30 speakers generate the choreographed movement of 2,000 images over an area of more than 75,000 square feet, onto walls as high as 45 feet and onto the floor. The sound-and-light show changes once a year and is one of the most-popular, most-visited sites in Provence.  Since its opening in 2012, Les Carrières de Lumières has attracted more than 3 million visitors.

The program always features an artist or group of artists, usually--but not always--with a connection to Provence. The newest show, which opened March 1st, is already attracting record numbers (with the tourist season not anywhere near full swing), so management strongly suggests booking a time slot online, which you can do in English here. The show runs until January 5, 2020.

Van Gogh: Starry Night retraces the intense life of the tormented Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890), who during the last ten years of his life, painted more than 2,000 canvasses.

The same show is currently on view at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris, the sister venue to the Carrières des Lumieres which opened in 2018. Both are operated by Culturespaceswhich manages many of the country's leading monuments, museums and art centers.

The Van Gogh show and it's much-larger-than-life scale "evoke the artist’s boundless, chaotic, and poetic interior world."  Visitors experience the various phases of his life—including time spent in Paris, Arles and St. Rémy—through sunny landscapes, night scenes, portraits and still lifes. Van Gogh’s immense oeuvre—which radically evolved over the years--are projected on a continuous loop, choreographed to a soundtrack that ranges from Brahms and Vivaldi to Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Janis Joplin. For a video taste of the show, click here.

As in years past, the main program is followed by a shorter one. This year, each showing of Van Gogh will be followed by Dreamed Japan: Images of the Floating World, offering "a journey into the Japan of the collective imagination—the Japan of the geishas, samurai warriors, and spirits." The production was inspired by the Japanese prints that began to circulate in Europe in the second half of the 19th century, when trade opened up between the West and Japan. The discovery of Japanese art had a profound effect on Western art: the painting of the Impressionists and the avant-garde artists but also on the decorative arts, music, and dance. Van Gogh gave free reign to his interest in Japonisme. In Paris, he studied and bought Japanese prints; the Land of the Rising Sun influenced his use of line, color and composition. In Provence, he told his brother Théo that "everything has become Japanese in the southern light." This production highlights Van Gogh’s fascination with Japan and is being called "a contemplative journey into the environment of the masters of Japanese prints."

Something new this year: four special evenings, called "Les Soirées Van Gogh." On May 30 & 31 and July 24 & 25, from 8 pm to Midnight, you can see the show, hear commentary from a guide (in French only) dine on site and enjoy the Gipsy/Gitane band News Flamenco, composed of four guitarist/singers and a dancer. Tickets to Les Soirées are 29€ or 47€ (with the Provencal dinner): an anchoïade, a bull estouffade (a red wine stew),  a cheese course and a lemon meringue "caissette."  The dinner will be served in the Espace Picasso and the Cafe des Carrières will be open all evening; picnic baskets will also be available and need to be ordered ahead of time. Buy your tickets on the Carrières site here.

For those who may have missed previous years' shows or want to see them again, the program called Les Intégrales des Carrières repeats three of them, all in one evening...ten times during the season.This year's dates for Les Intégrales are Aug 7 & 8, 14 & 15, and September 13 & 14, 20 & 21, 27 & 28. On these evenings the entry fee is 24€ and tickets must be purchased in advance. The doors open at 7:30 and the shows start at 8:30. This year the program will feature "Picasso and the Spanish Masters" (2018), "Chagall: Midsummer Nights Dreams" (2016) and "Klimt and Vienna: A Century of Gold and Colors" (2014). For more info, click here.

The Carrières de Lumières are located in the Val d’Enfer, a stone's throw from the hilltop village of Les Baux. The quarries here first produced white limestone, used in the construction of the village and its château. In 1821, 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. The Carrières du Val d’Enfer have been awarded Natural Monument status in France. 

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 the following year. For a look at all the shows since then, click here.

As in years past, you can definitely just show up at the Carrieres and pay your admission fee then. But to avoid long lines, sell-out crowds and waits of up to an hour, it's strongly advised that you buy your tickets online here. Adult tickets to the Carrières  are €13, seniors (65 and up) are €12; reduced rate for students is €11, and kids under 7 are free. There are also family rates and combined-visit prices (for the Carrières, the Chateau des Baux and the Musée Yves  Brayer) on the website, along with opening hours, directions and much more. 

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

Photos: (1) The Van Gogh show has been wildly popular since it opened in March so management now advises booking online rather than just ambling in. (2) On four special evenings, the Carrières will host Les Soirées Van Gogh, with viewings of the show, a talk, a Provencal dinner for those who want it and a Gipsy/Flamenco band.  (3) A video taste of Starry Night. (4-8) Four of the images you'll see in the show. (9, 10) Two shots from the short feature Dreamed Japan, which follows the main show. (11, 12) Last year's Picasso show will be reprised, along with the Chagall and Klimt shows, on ten nights this season. Special tickets are required. (13) The old bauxite quarry in daylight. The geologist who first discovered aluminum ore here named it after the village. (14) One section of the vast space is often lit beautifully for private parties and other events. (15) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo. (16) Based on the success of the Carrières de Lumières, Culturespaces opened the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris in April 2018, in a former foundry in the 11th arrondissement. The Van Gogh show is playing there too.

For general info about Les Baux including upcoming events, click here.

Want to spend the night in a Roman quarry? Sure you do! Then check out this very cool rental property in the Luberon.