marc chagall smallThe popular son et lumière show at the Cathedral of Images near Les Baux de Provence is now known under a new name, the Quarries of Lights (Les Carrières de Lumières).

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The concept remains the same, however. This extraordinary site was once a bauxite quarry in the bowels of the awe-inspiring landscapes of the "Valley of Hell" that inspired such great artists as Dante, Gounod and Cocteau.

Today the quarry has become the backdrop to a breathtaking show that projects multiple images - around 2,000 of them in the course of the 40 minute spectacle - on its ceiling, floor and huge rock walls, some of them as high as those of Notre Dame de Paris.

New projection facilities - 100 projectors and 27 speakers - have been installed to create a SenseSurround experience. Each spectacle is inspired by a painter or art movmement and accompanied by a specially chosen music track.

A visit here is an impressive and memorable experience. Click here to read an interview with Gianfranco Iannuzzi who, with his team, creates these spectacles.

The theme changes every year. Our gallery above features images from the 2017 show, The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel and Archimboldo (no.2), the 2016 show, Chagall, Dreams of a Summer Night (no.3), the 2015 show, Giants of the Renaissance (no.4); the 2014 show, Klimt and Vienna - A Century of Gold and Colours (nos.5 and 6); the 2013 show, Monet, Renoir, Chagall... Journeys around the Mediterranean (no.7); the 2012 show Gauguin, Van Gogh, Painters of Colour (no. 8); and the accompanying short film that year, Metamorphosis, an impressionistic evocation of the natural world (no.9).

The aim of the Quarries is not to reproduce a faint imitation of a museum or gallery but to immerse people in a multi-media show where they walk around amongst, and virtually within, the artworks.

It's especially effective when the art in question is otherwise difficult to see - such as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which figured in the 2015 show, Giants of the Renaissance.

The Quarries are run by a private foundation called Culturespaces, which also oversees a small but select portfolio of museums and monuments, mainly in the South of France (they include the Caumont Centre d'Art in Aix en Provence, the Château in Les Baux and the Roman amphitheatre in Orange).

News for the Quarries of LightsThe Quarries of Lights are currently closed until 4 March while a brand new show for 2017 is being created. Its theme is the "fantastic and the marvellous" and features three wildly imaginative artists of the 16th century from both Northern and Southern Europe.

arcimboldo smallThe Flemish masters are represented by Hieronymus Bosch's hallucinatory visions of heaven and hell, and by Pieter Brueghel's vividly detailed portraits of peasant life.

From Italy come Giuseppe Arcimboldo's delightful and whimsical "heads" which, on closer inspection, are all made up of fruit and flowers.

The highly eclectic music track ranges from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana and Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons to Led Zeppelin.

Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo: fantastique et merveilleux runs from 4 March-7 January 2018. It is, as usual, accompanied by a six-minute short film: the subject this year is Georges Méliès, the early silent film pioneer and master of fabulous special effects.

Also new in 2017: a short film about Jean Cocteau, which will be projected in the Salle Cocteau.

And as another bonus, four huge sculptures by Philip Haas inspired by Arcimboldo are on display in the nearby Château des Baux between May and December.

Click here to read about the 2016-2017 show, which was devoted to the Franco-Russian artist Marc Chagall and here to read about the 2015-2016 show, about Giants of the Renaissance.

Insider tip for the Quarries of LightsOn selected evenings during the summer, the Quarries stage special programmes at which you can catch up with the three most recent spectacles.

There are ten of these evenings in 2017 and you can find more details here. Advance booking is advised as they tend to sell out quickly.

Note that during the a-part Festival of Contemporary Art in July, the Quarries are also sometimes open late on certain evenings to host free avant-garde light shows.

Finally, if you're fascinated by the Quarries but will be visiting Paris rather than Provence, here is some excellent news. A "digital museum" called L'Atelier des Lumières opening in 2017 is going to replicate the concept in the City of Lights itself.

Located in a renovated 19th century foundry in the rue Saint Maur in Paris' eleventh arrondissement, the venue is also operated by Culturespaces and, like the Quarries, will feature a new show each year inspired by major names in art.

 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Where: Carrières de Lumières / Quarries of Lights, route de Maillane, 13520 Les Baux de Provence. Tel: (+33) 4 90 54 55 56. Les Baux is 15 km / 9 miles north-east of Arles and 30 km / 18 miles south of Avignon.

The entrance to the Quarries is on the road at the foot of the village, 800 metres / half a mile from the Château des Baux. There is a very small car-park, but be prepared to leave your car some way along the road.

The site is fully wheelchair-accessible. Website for the Quarries of Lights

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Each show consists of two films, a short and a "main feature". These last around 40-45 minutes in total and run on a continuous loop: there is a loose narrative, but you can enter and exit the show at any point, or stay to watch it several times over.

The entrance fee is 12 €uros for adults and 10 €uros for children aged 7-17, students, teachers and the unemployed. It goes up to 13 €uros in July and August.

Entrance is free for children under seven and for the second child after two adult and one child tickets have been paid for. There is also a reduced price combination ticket for the Quarries of Lights and the Château des Baux.

Insider tip for the Quarries of LightsBring a sweater! Even on a hot summer day, the temperature inside the Quarries is just 14 degrees Celsius / 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slideshow images © G. Iannuzzi and M. Siccardi, except for images 1 and 10 of the Quarries themselves (© Culturespaces), image 2 (© Nuit de Chine / Kunsthistorisches Museum / Bridgeman Images / DR) and image 3 (© Erick Venturelli).

 

 

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