Light and Location: Frank Gehry in Arles. Harbour Light and Location: Easel in Newcastle.

Updated: Jul 4, 2021


Last week, 27 June 2021 the Luma Foundation (www.luma.org) opened its architectural arts’ gift to Arles (https://www.arlestourisme.com/en/) Provence. Current photographs of Frank Gehry’s finished building and the Annabelle Selldorf restorations as well as Bas Smets surrounds catch the exhilaration that must have prevailed at the opening; the almost impossible artistry of design within setting, apparent accuracy in chosen location. In the building once again and again fluent use of materials, making structures that should not actually ‘stand up’ is emphatic; study of the internal structure carrying the visible totality will pleasingly reveal – as in other Gehry designs – the complete intersection of art, colour, architecture, science, engineering, imagination, innovation, construction skill and wonderfully, practically: weather-proofing.


The Art Newspaper (http://www.theartnewspaper.com) 28 June 2021:

“…LUMA Arles is a 27-acre creative campus in Arles, which brings together artists and innovators of the future. This summer, the spectacular LUMA Tower designed by Frank Gehry opens its doors to the public with specially commissioned works by leading artists from around the world.”


Frank Gehry (https://gagosian.com/artists/frank-gehry/) started to study art and architecture after his family emigrated from Canada to the United States in 1947. In the years since about 1980, with family I have had the opportunity to visit some of ‘his’ buildings and structures.


We started with his corrugated cardboard and Masonite chairs in the institute Chicago (https://www.artic.edu/artworks/239018/wiggle-side-chair), an enchanting museum where Chagall and Gehry with others demonstrate the courage of thinking differently, thus enhancing the known world by introducing the material results of artistic imagination, diligent determination, supported by developed skill. For them the commonplace did not suffice.


Subsequently some time has been spent, concentrating, in


Guggenheim, Bilbao (https://www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus);

Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris (https://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en)

Pritzker (Music) Pavilion, Chicago (http://www.jaypritzkerpavilion.com)

Stata Centre, MIT Boston (web.mit.edu/facilities/construction/completed/stata)

UTS (https://www.uts.edu.au//dr-chau-chak-wing-building) in Sydney.

Marques de Riscal Hotel, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B65gg_dmGSA

Rijoa, Spain.


Intelligently the Luma Arles is placed in the midst of a former industrial estate, largely nineteenth century built, restored to become a ‘campus’ described in comments from Design Indaba (http://www.designindaba.com) :


Anticipated not only for the major names linked to it, the LUMA Foundation’s new LUMA Arles creative campus encapsulates what architecture and the arts in general should stand for. Launching later this year, the campus encompasses collaborative thinking, the bridging of old and new, the cultivation and support of artistic potential, and spaces that foster engagement and dialogue.


The LUMA Foundation was established by Maja Hoffmann in 2004 as a leading international philanthropic organisation. It focuses on the direct relationships between art, culture, environmental issues, human rights, education and research.


LUMA Arles is a 27-acre creative campus at the Parc des Ateliers in the city of Arles. The campus brings together artists and innovators of the future. It is dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to experiment in close collaboration with other artists from a variety of disciplines, with curators and diverse audiences. (June 2021)


For us at Easel Art Space (easel-art-space.com) amalgamated with CStudios situated in the 1858 Newcastle Station this concept completed last week in Arles, in similar time-scale to work done to provide renovated spaces in Newcastle NSW adjacent to the spectacular working harbour and the architecturally significant East of the city, and then the future post-Covid essential innovation by all the arts – all works of mind and hand – are one. Though geographically as far apart as they are, Arles and Newcastle should be – must be surely - companions in thinking.


On a personal note, for this writer Arles is recalled with affection because on one occasion a type of temporary arthritic illness struck during a particular business visit. Fortunately the destination was a small hotel called La Calendula (https://www.lecalendal.com/en/home) adjacent to the still operational Roman Amphitheatre (https://www.arenes-arles.com). Better health later meant walking this comfortable Van Gogh city was a lasting pleasure, and now a fine memory enhanced by the knowledge that in large part through philanthropy, the Ligurian/Celtic/Modern French city has emphasised arts and cultural inquiry as much as engineering, all adding to a renowned history. The Roman Forum is still a sunny place to take coffee.


From last week Arles has another companion piece to the Amphitheatre, but also the excitement of drawing on a perhaps inadvertent arts contribution the city has made. Gehry observed that in approaching the design of the Luma Foundation building he had taken inspiration from Van Gogh, a Dutch ‘son of Arles’ who painted some 187 works, and many more sketches, during his time there. This is all well known, but Gehry commented: (see The Arts Newspaper interview)


“…Van Gogh famously said: “Those who don’t believe in the sun down here are truly blasphemous.” Not just the light; specifically, the sun was a talisman for him….I was curious what the light was like when he was painting and think that it must still be there today. The building in the evening does come close to capturing the colours of that painting….”


There are some two thousand five hundred years’ difference in age between Arles and our Newcastle – 535 BCE to 1797 – but the contemporary guidance immediately obvious and to be received carefully is thus clearer, as it should be. The expressed imaginative arts, well-founded in insight and practice, inform the future for Newcastle as for Arles. Private philanthropy can return community and cultural value made manifold. Inspiration from human endeavour directly fuels inspiration and accomplishment in others but must be sought. In this one instance the visual art and engineering splendour of Luma’s Gehry Tower Arles 2021 is proof. Others by others, across an ocean of genuine creativity, exist also.


As we at Easel Art Space hang works on our gallery walls and communicate mutually electronically with the wider world (Easel-Art-Space.com), there is always recognition that the quality of human life, potential inspiration for others, permanent messages to the brilliant future, and the potential for extraordinary cultural accomplishments – may be advanced.


Mission, hope, effort, energy and practical outcome.


When Covid is overcome, Arles calls because Newcastle also calls.


Peter Cornish

July 2021.

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