Flag apart Jesús Díaz de Vivara-part is a festival of modern art which takes each summer in some of the loveliest countryside, towns and villages in the Alpilles. In 2016, a-part is held from 17 July to 27 August.

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Each year some of the works are site-specific and produced especially for the festival. And many of the artists are in attendance for all or part of the event: the social aspect of a-part is almost as prominent as the art itself.

"All too often with contemporary art, people think the work comes easily," says Leïla Voight, the founder of a-part. "Meeting the artists and exchanging ideas with them humanises the work and the creative process."

Entrance to all exhibitions and parties is free. Website for the Festival a-part

a-part brings together both renowned international artists and young discoveries. First launched in 2010, it runs on a slim budget.

But by now it's bidding for a place in the sun alongside Provence's big summer arts attractions, the Festival d'Aix and the Chorégies d'Orange (opera and classical music), the Festival d'Avignon (theatre) and the Rencontres d'Arles (photography). The curious name stands for "Alpilles-Provence art", condensed to a-part, meaning "on its own", "one of a kind".

a part poster 2016Recent a-part festivals have been organised around a theme: Francesco Goya and war art in 2014 (pictured top: a piece from that year) and the selfie in 2015.

In 2016 the theme is Let's Dance. Performance art is part of the programme and there are dance performances every Thursday evening in August in Les Baux de Provence.

Among the artists present are Gérard Fromanger, who also designed this year's festival poster, pictured, the dancer-choreographer Régine Chopinot, Pierre Roy-Camille, Marc Turlan, Mihael Milunovic and Erika Harrsch, to name but a few.

The participating towns and villages are all within a few miles of each other, and so you could easily drive around them on an art circuit.

In 2016 a-part is held in Les Baux de Provence, Le Paradou, Saint Etienne du Grès, Tarascon and Saint Rémy de Provence. Some evening events will take place in the Quarries of Lights, the bauxite quarries just outside Les Baux that now host spectacular sound and light shows.

a-part's focus on accessibility is mirrored by the fact that many works are very simply displayed in the open air or on wooden crates or pallets rather than hidden inside touch-me-not glass cases. Each town or village has its own vernissage, or launch party, on a different night, and everyone's invited.

The main social action takes place near the beginning of a-part, when these parties are held. But don't worry if you are visiting the Alpilles after the end of the festival - certain shows continue into the late summer well after the end of the official a-part programme.

The festival can seem decentred and difficult to navigate, and it probably best to dip into it selectively at your convenience rather than to try to take in the whole show. One year we drove around for over an hour before giving up the search for one of its less well-signposted venues!

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There are several very good reasons for holding this kind of festival in these particular locations. The Alpilles have long been a magnet for artists, from, most famously, Vincent van Gogh to Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Auguste Chabert and Yves Brayer.

The area also attracts armies of upmarket tourists and wealthy second-home owners and so a-part is an excellent showcase for artists hoping to sell their work. Still, Voight concedes that some of the edgier pieces are unlikely to find buyers in this somewhat conservative market.

Many of the participating communes are also keen to stage evening events to broaden their appeal beyond the day-tripping coach parties.

In 2011, Les Baux de Provence mounted a multi-venue show dedicated to the avant-garde artist Arman, whose biting critiques of consumerism sat tellingly alongside the tacky souvenir stands that blight this beautiful village. Click here to read a review of Arman's 2011 show in Les Baux de Provence.

Where: a-part takes place in towns and villages across the Alpilles.


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