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 Val d'Enfer (Valley of Hell) that inspired such great artists as Dante, Gounod and Cocteau.

Today the quarry is the backdrop to a breathtaking show that projects multiple images - around 2000 of them during the 30 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 movement and accompanied by a specially chosen music track.

The theme changes every year. Our gallery above features images from the 2018 short film Flower Power (no.2); the 2017 show The Fantastic and Marvellous World of Bosch, Brueghel and Archimboldo (no.3); the 2016 show, Chagall, Dreams of a Summer Night (no.4); the 2015 show, Giants of the Renaissance (no.5); the 2014 show, Klimt and Vienna - A Century of Gold and Colours (nos.6 and 7); the 2013 show, Monet, Renoir, Chagall... Journeys around the Mediterranean (no.8); and the 2012 show Gauguin, Van Gogh, Painters of Colour (no. 9).

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 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).

The 2018 show at the Quarries of Lights is dedicated to Pablo Picasso. The first part of the show introduces portraits and scenes of everyday life by the great Spanish masters who preceded him, including Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga and Sorolla.

PicassoFemmeauMiroir3The second part focusses on Picasso himself, featuring some of the greatest hits from the whole of his career, among them Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica.

The spectacle also has extracts from Henri Georges Clouzot's classic 1955 film Le mystère Picasso, with intimate scenes of the artist at work. As usual there is an eclectic music track ranging from Beethoven and Bizet to Glenn Miller and Otis Redding.

The accompanying short film is a fun one this year: it’s dedicated to the late 1960s, from Flower Power and psychedelia to Pop Art.

Expect a homage to the Beatles' Sgt Pepper and Yellow Submarine and more fab music from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. 2 March-6 January 2019.

NewsThe 2019-2020 show at the Quarries of Lights is called La Nuit étoilée (Starry Night). It is dedicated to Vincent van Gogh and the masterpieces he painted in this very part of Provence, notably Arles and Saint Rémy, in the last ten years of his life. From 1 March 2019.

Click here to read about the 2017-2018 show, on the theme of the "fantastic and marvellous" in 16th century art, 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 all in one go! Refreshments are available to keep you going and advance booking is advised as they tend to sell out quickly.

Note that the Quarries are sometimes used for other events on certain evenings, such as avant-garde film screenings or concerts during the Piano Festival of La Roque d'Anthéron.

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 is replicating 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, features 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 and the Quarries now have a café serving simple lunches. 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 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 12.5 €uros for adults and 10.5 €uros for children aged 7-17, students, teachers and the unemployed.

Entrance is free for children under seven and a reduced-rate family ticket is available. There is also a reduced price combination ticket for the Quarries of Lights, the Musée Brayer in Les Baux 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).

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