Flag apart Jesús Díaz de Vivara-part is a festival of modern art which takes each spring and summer in some of the loveliest countryside, towns and villages in the Alpilles in the area around Saint Rémy de Provence.

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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.

The curious name stands for "Alpilles-Provence art", condensed to a-part, meaning "on its own", "one of a kind".

"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, and in fact a question mark currently hangs over whether it will and can continue. Currently it is still being held, in a reduced format.

a part poster 2016Festivals have also been organised around a theme: Francesco Goya and war art in 2014 (pictured top: a piece from that year), the selfie in 2015 and dancing in 2016. Pictured: a detail from the 2016 poster.

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

The venues included Les Baux de Provence, Le Paradou, Saint Etienne du Grès, Tarascon and Saint Rémy de Provence, as well as, for the first time, Marseille on the city's rue de la République, where the closing ceremony was held at the end of August.

Some evening events took place in the Quarries of Lights, the bauxite quarries just outside Les Baux that now also 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 is 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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