Artists Inspired by ProvenceCarolyne Kauser-AbbottInspire

Visit Lee Ufan Arles for Contemporary Art

The city of Arles, in what is now Provence, was essential for river trade during the Roman era. The Rhône River was a major route for transporting goods in both directions on the water and then inland. Vincent van Gogh spent over a year in Arles before moving to Saint Paul de Mausole, an asylum in St Remy de Provence. Since 1969, Arles has become a hub for the art of photography with the annual Rencontres de la Photographie. In June 2021, LUMA Arles – an interdisciplinary creative campus designed by Frank Gehry – officially opened to the public in the former Parc des Ateliers. So, it probably is not surprising that contemporary artist Lee Ufan fell in love with the city and established Lee Ufan Arles.

Relatum - Sky underneath In collaboration with Tadao Ando

Relatum – Sky underneath
In collaboration with Tadao Ando
2022 ©Lee Ufan Arles

Lee Ufan, the Artist

Lee Ufan’s artistic style as a painter and sculptor is considered minimalist. Born in Korea in 1936, Lee Ufan moved to Japan in the late 1950s. Today, he spends time between New York, Paris, and Tokyo. He began lecturing at the Tama Art University in Tokyo in 1973 and at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1997. Although trained as a painter, his sculptures are distinct in their simplicity and use of stone, wood, glass, metal, and other materials. Lee Ufan is considered the father of the experimental Japanese artistic movement Mono-ha (“the school of things”). Ufan’s works form part of global museum collections from New York to London, Seoul, Tokyo, and now Arles, France. Please read more about Lee Ufan’s biography and exhibitions here.

"Dialogues" 2016-2018 Fondation Lee Ufan Arles

“Dialogues” 2016-2018 ©Lee Ufan Arles

Lee Ufan Arles

In April 2022, the Lee Ufan Arles 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 two 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. The building’s third floor is reserved for temporary exhibits.

“This city has renewed my thoughts; it’s not me who chose Arles, it’s her who chose me.” ~ Lee Ufan

Hôtel Vernon Fondation Lee Ufan Arles

Hôtel Vernon ©Lee Ufan Arles

Roman Arles

Arles was the Roman capital of the three Gauls – France, Spain and Britain. Emperor Aurelius built the “Via Aurelia” road from Rome to Arles in 241 BC, which ended at the Bouches-du-Rhône (mouth of the Rhône River). On its shores, the Romans built shipyards and an enormous arena modelled after the Colosseum, where gladiatorial combat and chariot races took place.

Under Roman law, burying the dead within city limits was forbidden. As a result, it became common practice to line the roads closest to the city centre with tombs, sarcophagi and mausoleums. Alyscamps remained the main burial ground for the Romans for 1,500 years.

Discover Alyscamps

Alyscamps Roman Burial Arles

©Sue Aran French Country Adventures

In Arles, large ships from the Mediterranean Sea would exchange cargo with the smaller vessels. These boats could navigate the Rhône or unpack their loads for overland travel to other cities in the empire. With all this coming and going, it was inevitable that some of the cargo would slip overboard, presumably lost forever. But in recent years, scientists have been able to explore the river’s murky depths and have made some remarkable discoveries. First was the bust of Julius Caesar, considered the best found. Then came an actual Roman barge over 100 feet long. Both are now in the Museum of Ancient Arles, along with mosaics, coins, and other artifacts from the glory days of the empire.

Roman Barge Arles Museum Antiquity

©Rémi Bénali – Musée départemental Arles antique

During the Hôtel Vernon renovation work, the remains of a Roman emperor (circa 160 AD) were discovered and restored by the Musée d’Arles Antique. Perhaps this archeological find links the ancient past in Arles and the artistic new beginnings.

Visitor Information

Lee Ufan Arles (website)
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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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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