Monday, March 9, 2020

Dali and Gaudi Show Opens in Les Baux

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, the Carrières de Lumières has attracted close to 4 million visitors.

The program features an artist or group of artists, usually--but not always--with a connection to Provence. Last year’s show, Van Gogh: Starry Night, retraced 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 show ran from March 1, 2019 to January 5, 2020 and attracted 760,000 visitors.

The same show was also on view at the Atelier des Lumieres in Paris, the sister venue to the Carrières de Lumières,  which opened in 2018. The Paris venue currently has Monet, Renoir...Chagall: Journeys Around the Mediterranean, on view until January 3, 2021.

There’s also digital art venue called the Bunker de Lumières  in South Korea (who knew?). You can learn about that one here. They’re running the Van Gogh show until October 25, 2020.

A fourth venue called Bassins de Lumieres will open on April 17 month in Bordeaux, with shows featuring Gustav Klimpt and Paul Klee. The €10 million project, ongoing since 2018, comprises four basins in an old submarine base, one of five major structures built by German forces during the World War II. (The others were located at Brest, Lorient, Saint-Nazaire and La Rochelle.) The massive bunker is considered an essential part of Bordeaux’s cultural and historic landscape. For the history of the base and lots more info, click here.

Like the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux, the Paris, South Korea and Bordeaux venues are operated by Culturespaces, which manages many of France’s leading monuments, museums and art centers.

And now after a two-month closure, the  Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux launched its new show on Friday March 5. Called Dali: The Endless Enigma, it encompasses more than 60 years in the career of the Catalan master. From his initial Impressionist- and Cubist-inspired works to his mystical works with religious themes and his surrealistic period, it also incorporates elements of his work in the theater, photography and cinema. Saw it and loved it!

The show is set to the music of Pink Floyd, with tracks from The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, “plunging visitors into a soaring, peaceful and troubling world.” I’ve always felt that the sundtrack plays a huge part in the enjoyment of the Carrières shows.  In this particular case, the show’s producers say that setting the exhibit to the music of this legendary band “will take visitors on a timeless journey that awakes the subconscious and buried thoughts in which the Dali oeuvre remains a mystery and an endless enigma.” The Dali show runs until January 3, 2021. 

As in years past, the main program is followed by a shorter one. This year it’s Gaudi: The Architect of the Imaginary, paying tribute to the limitless creativity and modernist buildings of architect Antonio Gaudí, a great source of inspiration for Dalí. To the sound of Gershwin, the Parc Güell, the Casa Batlló, the Casa Milà and the Sagrada Família will come alive “reflecting the spiritual illumination of the artist, who succeeded in giving the abstract artistic form.” For a video of the Gaudi show, click here

The Dali and Gaudi show runs until January 3, 2021. 

If you’ve never been to the Carrières de Lumières, you wander at leisure around the vast, dark, cool indoor space. The stone floors are somewhat uneven so if you’re unsteady, you might bring a cane. There are stone benches for those who want them and you can stay as long as you like. The show plays on a continuous loop and lasts just under an hour. As you exit, there’s a small but interesting shop selling books and other items pertaining to the history of Provence, Les Baux and the Carrieres. A cafe is open from 10:30 to 5:30 daily. 

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.

The Carrières de Lumières is open seven days a week. Hours are as follows: 

March : 9:30 am - 6 pm. 
April, May, June, Sept and Oct: 9:30 am - 7 pm.
July & Aug: 9 am - 7:30 pm
Nov, Dec, Jan : 10 am - 6 pm
Last entry is always one hour before closing.

As in years past, you can just show up at the Carrières and pay your admission fee then. But to avoid long lines in season, they suggest you buy tickets online here.  You can also buy them ahead at the Carrières ticket office or at all FNAC stores. 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 background, directions and much more. 

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

Photos: (1, 2) Poster and video clip for the Dali show. (3, 4) Two stills from the show. (5)  The old bauxite quarry in daylight; the geologist who first discovered aluminum ore here named it after the village.  (6) One section of the vast space is lit beautifully for private parties and other events. I took this photo at the launch party on Thursday night. (7) One of my favorite photos of the village of Les Baux, taken by Philippe Clairo. (8, 9) At the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, the show "Monet, Renoir...Chagall," opened February 28. (10) A fourth venue --in Bordeaux--will open on April 17 in a World War II submarine basin. The main show at the Bassins de Lumières will feature the works of Gustav Klimt, followed by a shorter one about Paul Klee.