Arles Images Pageant: A 2021 Comeback & Transformation – Los Angeles Review of Books

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One of the primary indicators of the reawakening of the European cultural scene, after the somber, somnolent yr of Covid lockdowns, was the return of Les Rencontres d’Arles in July — a spirited non-commercial pageant celebrating one of the best of the world’s images within the labyrinthine southern city finest recognized for Van Gogh’s remaining days and still-active Roman arenas. It felt the identical as years previous aside from being helmed by a brand new director (Christoph Wiesner), the compulsory masks, and exhibits that veered a bit extra self-consciously towards the causes of racial and gender variety, and the politics of  environmentalism.

Photographs by Michael Kurcfeld.

But essentially the most compelling shift (and hottest ticket) was the disclosing of the LUMA Foundation’s spectacular new Arles campus, the centerpiece of which is Frank Gehry’s gleaming 5-story edifice that homes galleries, workplaces, a theater and a “living archive” of photographers. There’s even a double-helix tubular slide descending the peak of the entry atrium, which this author braved. As a nod to the Roman origins of Arles, the tower’s undulating metallic floor is constructed of volumes equal to the stone bricks utilized in classical Roman structure.

The surrounding grounds, together with the Parc des Ateliers (as soon as a fancy of practice sheds) bejeweled by a large pink, moderately intestinal-looking sculpture by Franz West, have been reworked with lush landscaping and a big pond from oppressive desert to inviting Eden. Does it actually match the traditional township? Depends whom one asks. But there’s no denying it can burnish Arles’ rising fame because the Athens of Provence. Here are 5 exhibits that stood out… 

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Michael Kurcfeld is a journalist and founder of Stonehenge Media. He produces the Photographer Spotlight series for the Los Angeles Review of Books.


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