It’s one thing to go to a museum and look at a famous work of art and be impressed. It’s another thing to see art immersed in sound and light shows in Paris and Provence. In this case, at Atelier des Lumières and Carrières de Lumières, you’ll be blown away. Imagine popular works of art projected onto gigantic walls and choreographed to classical and modern music. Here you have digital art exhibitions for the 21st century. This is what they’re all about and why you must visit them:
[This post was updated October, 2019 to include information about my third visit to Carrières de Lumières which presented a Van Gogh exhibition]
Paris: Atelier des Lumières
Atelier des Lumières is located in a former foundry, Chemin-Vert, that originally opened in 1935, to manufacture cast iron parts for naval and railway companies. While the smelting plant was still able to produce tools until 2000, it wasn’t until recently (2013) that Culturespaces got involved to rent out the facility to create a digital arts center. Culturespaces also manages Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux, Provence.
Sound and Light Exhibitions
The first exhibition opened in April 2018 and featured:
- Gustav Klimt
- Hundertwasser in the Wake of the Vienna Secession
- Colours X Colours
While the Klimt art was recognizable, I wasn’t familiar with the others. It is a different immersive experience compared to the sound and light show in Les Baux. The walls are high but not as huge as the quarry in Provence. There is an upper level and side room to view the different projections and many, many people sit on the floor in the middle of the facility, so you have to be careful where you walk.
Location: 8 rue Saint Maur in the 11th arrondissement
Open: Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm; Fridays and Saturdays 10 am until 10 pm, and Sundays 10 am until 7 pm
Cost: 14.5 Euros
Tickets: To get tickets, it is best to book them online. The box office is only open during the week. It’s closed Friday starting at 4 pm and is closed Saturday and Sunday. When I arrived in Paris on a Saturday in July, I went online and was able to secure a ticket for later that day. Their website shows the number of tickets available each day.
Les Baux: Carrières de Lumières
In the heart of Provence, just 25 kilometers west of Avignon is Château des Baux de Provence, renowned for the remains of the 10th-century fortress. Just around the corner is the relatively new installation built in a former quarry (“carrière”): Carrières de Lumières.
- In 1800 there was a demand for stone and Les Baux had it. Thus began the beginning of the creation of quarries such as Les Grands Fonds, which is now Les Carrières de Lumières.
- The quarry closed in 1935 and a few years later famous filmmaker Jean Cocteau used the facility for one of his films, “The Testament Of Orpheus”.
- It wasn’t until 1977 that the space was finally used for sound and light shows
- In 2012, Culturespaces began to manage the quarry and the art and music exhibitions.
Sound and Light Exhibitions
When you enter the gigantic space, you are presented with enormous walls of limestone and you are free to wander throughout the complex or sit on the side and enjoy the entertainment.
There are 2-3 digital exhibitions where works of art are projected onto the walls while music is coordinated with the displays. I have visited Les Carrières de Lumières three times and during my last visit, it confirmed my opinion that Les Carrières de Lumières is much more impressive than Atelier des Lumières. It is inevitable as Les Carrières is obviously larger and the with such high walls as “screens”, the images projected are simply more impressive.
2017 Exhibition: Bosch, Brugehel, and Arcimboldo
During this first visit, I saw “The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brugehel, Arcimboldo”. I wasn’t familiar with the art so I wasn’t as “awed” as my second visit in 2018.
2018 Exhibition: Picasso
During this second visit, I saw art by Picasso and other Spanish painters such as Goya and Sorolla as well as art from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The music from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Jimmy Hendrix that went with “Flower Power and Pop Culture” was really more to my liking. The exhibition used wildly vivid colours and many familiar tunes.
2019 Exhibition: Van Gogh
My third visit was in 2019 and it was the best. “Van Gogh, La Nuit Étoilée” (Van Gogh, Starry Night) was the presentation at Carrières de Lumières and my favourite certainly because I was most familiar with his art. The iconic images of Van Gogh’s Les Tournesols (Sunflowers, 1888), Nuit étoilée (Starry Night, 1889), and his self-portrait were breathtaking.
I also really like the music played during the Van Gogh exhibition. It was by Vivaldi (Four Seasons), Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, and Miles Davis. This particular show is also shown at Paris’ Atelier des Lumières so if you can’t make it to Provence, be sure to check out the show in Paris.
The second part of the exhibition was combined with “Dreamed Japan, Images of the Floating World”, filled with images of samurai warriors and geishas. It was accompanied with music by Debussy. The Van Gogh/Japan spectacle runs until January 2020.
If you are visiting in the summer, you’ll enjoy the cool temperatures inside. Usually, it is a refreshing 14-16 degrees Celsius, so bring a sweater.
Cost: 13 Euros (as of 2019)
Note: You can get a combined ticket to visit Les Carrières de Lumières and Château des Baux de Provence for a reduced price (16.6 E)
The sound and light shows In Paris and Provence run continuously so it doesn’t matter when you enter. During your visit, you’ll be able to see all the presentations. Most of the exhibitions in Paris and Les Baux run for 6-9 months.
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