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Reasons to Visit Arles, France from Van Gogh to Contemporary Art

Arles’s contemporary art scene is another reason visitors flock to the city. In this post, one of my favourite Uzès-based British artists, Gilly Beal, visits Arles and shares her impressions of Arles’s artistic renaissance and burgeoning contemporary art scene.

Van Gogh in Arles

Nestled amidst the inspiring landscapes of the Provence region in southeast France, Arles is a city steeped in artistic legacy and cultural heritage. Renowned for its association with the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, who famously captured the essence of Arles in his vibrant paintings, the city has long served as a muse for creative types across generations.

However, beyond the allure of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes, today lies a thriving contemporary art scene that continues to evolve, redefine, and challenge conventional notions of artistic expression. Continue reading here for the original article on Barefoot Blogger.

Why Visit Arles?

This city on the western edge of Provence has a long history, contemporary architecture, museums, shopping, gourmet food and enough grit to capture your interest. Arles is considered the gateway to the Camargue wetlands and Rhône River delta. It is the last major urban centre before leaving Provence’s southwestern boundary. Below is our city guide for visitors to Arles. While the city centre is small and easily covered on foot, there is a lot to see in this town, so if time permits, plan on spending at least two days in Arles.

Discover Arles Van Gogh

Van Gogh in Arles

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh: Imagine arriving in Provence for the first time on February 20, 1888, after two years of struggling to make a living in Paris. For Vincent van Gogh, who grew up in Holland, Provence’s radiant light starkly contrasted with its muted colour palette and luminosity. Some might say this profound change spurred his creative abilities to obsessive reaches. During his two years in the South of France, van Gogh produced over 200 paintings and many drawings.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh moved to Arles hoping for a refuge at a time when he was ill from drink and suffering from smoker’s cough. He arrived on 21 February 1888 and took a room at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel. The local landscape and light enchanted Van Gogh, and his works from the period are richly draped in yellow, ultramarine and mauve. His Dutch upbringing informs his portrayals of the Arles landscape; the patchwork of fields and avenues appear flat and lack perspective but excel in their intensity of colour.

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh
35 ter, rue du Docteur-Fanton
13200 Arles
Book your tickets online in advance.

Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm
Last admission at 5:15 pm

Telephone: +33 (0)4 90 93 08 08

LUMA Arles Art Centre

Parc des Ateliers, LUMA, Arles, France. ©Rémi Bénali (2021)

LUMA Arles

While some detractors may have yet to embrace the 12-story Frank Gehry-designed tower, few can argue that the LUMA Foundation project has successfully converted abandoned railway lands into an attractive urban park and gathering place. Today, the sparkling 15,000 m2 LUMA tower twists skyward from its circular base, surrounded by 11,000 stainless steel bricks that reflect the Provencal sun and sky.

Where the Frank Gehry group had Maja Hoffmann’s vision and guidelines to follow, they would break ground on a new building. However, the balance of Parc des Ateliers was a little better than that of a scrapyard, which included seven industrial hangar buildings and a plot of land that had once been part of the Alyscamps cemetery. French landscape architect Bas Smets’s first impression of the site was a harsh landscape with abandoned concrete slabs, no water, and almost no vegetation. He describes this project as the most complex and challenging of his career. In a complete transformation, the Parc des Ateliers now has a pond, pathways, varied topography, 80,000 plants and 500 trees.

LUMA Arles
Parc des Ateliers
35 Avenue Victor Hugo
13200 Arles
Open daily from 10h to 19h30

The park grounds, the base of the tower and the Drum Café are all free to visit.
Reservations are recommended for dining at the Drum Café.
Book in advance for the guided visits to the tower and grounds.

"Dialogues" 2016-2018 Fondation Lee Ufan Arles

“Dialogues” 2016-2018 ©Fondation Lee Ufan Arles

La Fondation Lee Ufan

In April 2023, the Lee Ufan Foundation opened in Hôtel Vernon. Contemporary Japanese architect Tadao Ando restored the elegant house dating from the 16th and 18th centuries to suit the Lee Ufan collection. The exhibition space of 1350m2 (roughly 14,500 sqft) spreads over three floors, starting with a concrete spiral called “Relatum, ciel sous terre.” On the second level are some of his drawings from 1964 and paintings from the 1970s to the present day.

Fondation Lee Ufan
5 rue Vernon,
13200 Arles
Telephone +33 (0)9 78 07 83 26

Opening hours:
July 1 to September 30, open daily from 10 am to 7 pm
October 1 to January 7, then February 6 to June 30. The centre is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm.

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Deborah Bine

Deborah Bine

The Barefoot Blogger, aka Deborah Bine, loves to share tales of her solo life in France as an American expat who speaks no French. Retired from a career in advertising and marketing communications, and divorced after a 40-year marriage with children, Deborah left Beaufort, South Carolina and all of her belongings last year to move to the south of France. Now that she has found her "bliss," her passion is to encourage others to break away from whatever is holding them back and to go after their dreams. "We're on life's journey alone. Be certain you love where you are."

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