Art-break ho­tel

Maja Hoff­mann and Jorge Pardo on cre­at­ing a re­mark­able Provençal re­treat

Wallpaper - - July - Pho­tog­ra­phy: charles Petit writer: Benoît loiseau

Maja Hoff­mann and Jorge Pardo tile with style at a cre­ative re­treat in Ar­les

In1888, Vin­cent van Gogh, rav­aged by heavy drink­ing and dis­il­lu­sioned with life in Paris, found refuge in Ar­les, in­tent on cre­at­ing an artists’ com­mune. ‘L’ate­lier du Sud’ would, he hoped, become a lab­o­ra­tory to ex­per­i­ment with colours and light, repo­si­tion­ing the Provençal city as a cen­tre for artis­tic pro­duc­tion. But the project ended abruptly the same year, af­ter a se­ries of vi­o­lent quar­rels with his friend Paul Gau­guin – the only artist who had re­sponded to the in­vi­ta­tion – drove the Dutch­man to a men­tal break­down, dur­ing which he fa­mously cut off part of his own ear.

De­spite its failure, the ideals be­hind l’ate­lier du Sud left an in­deli­ble mark on Ar­les which, some 130 years later, may get its artist colony af­ter all. De­signed by the Cuban-born Amer­i­can artist Jorge Pardo, l’ar­la­tan – a ho­tel and artist res­i­dence, housed in a 15th-cen­tury palace once be­long­ing to the Counts of Ar­la­tan de Beau­mont – is set to become a hub for the in­ter­na­tional in­tel­li­gentsia brought to the city by the newly es­tab­lished con­tem­po­rary art cen­tre, Luma Ar­les.

Built on an an­cient Ro­man basil­ica (its re­mains are still vis­i­ble), and a stone’s throw from the Unesco-listed Baths of Con­stan­tine, the 5,500 sq m build­ing boasts an im­pres­sive list of his­toric fea­tures added through the cen­turies, in­clud­ing a clas­si­cal façade on three lev­els, re­built in the 18th cen­tury; exquisitely painted wooden ceil­ings from the 15th cen­tury; and a dra­matic, mono­lithic col­umn from the 5th cen­tury, for­merly part of the baths. ‘I thought it’d be in­ter­est­ing to bring a new di­men­sion, one of the 21st cen­tury,’ ex­plains the pres­i­dent of the Luma Foun­da­tion, Swiss art mav­er­ick Maja Hoff­mann, of the re­fur­bish­ment she com­mis­sioned.

‘How does some­body like me speak to that?’ muses the softly spo­ken Pardo, ru­mi­nat­ing on the lay­ered his­tory of the site. Pardo, whose practice op­er­ates at the in­ter­sec­tion of art, ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign, rose to promi­nence in the 1990s as part of the re­la­tional aes­thet­ics move­ment led by French critic Ni­co­las Bour­ri­aud, which con­sid­ers so­cial con­text as the point of de­par­ture of an art­work. ‘What Pardo con­sis­tently cre­ates is spa­ces that re­spond with care to his sur­round­ings, while also skew­er­ing con­ven­tion to make some­thing truly orig­i­nal,’ says Tim Neuger, co-founder of Ber­lin’s Neuger­riem­schnei­der gallery, who has been work­ing with Pardo since 1994. One of Pardo’s first high-pro­file pro­jects, 4166 Sea

View Lane (1998), is a house he built in LA as part of the city’s Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary of Art’s Focus »

ex­hi­bi­tion se­ries. The house was opened to the pub­lic for five weeks be­fore Pardo moved in.

The Ar­les project takes that idea of art as do­mes­tic/ pub­lic space to a new level. Pardo pro­duced more than 1,300 pieces of fur­ni­ture, rang­ing from rock­ing chairs, wooden ta­bles and wo­ven-cane wardrobes to some 400 laser-cut lamps and chan­de­liers. They were hand­made and painted by a 24-strong team at his stu­dio in Mérida, Mex­ico (which grew to ac­com­mo­date the am­bi­tion of the project), and now pop­u­late 30 rooms and 11 res­i­dences as well as com­mu­nal spa­ces.

‘The aes­thetic is not nec­es­sar­ily re­spond­ing to the an­tiq­uity,’ ex­plains Pardo, whose con­cept is more con­cerned with light and colours, while in­tro­duc­ing a di­a­logue be­tween the Camargue re­gion and his adopted home of Yu­catán. ‘They’re both places where you look at the sky all the time,’ he con­tin­ues dream­ily.

But it’s the kalei­do­scopic sur­faces that re­ally set l’ar­la­tan apart. More than a mil­lion hand­made, glazed ce­ramic tiles, in 11 dif­fer­ent shapes and 18 colours (rang­ing from light yel­lows and tan­ger­ine to laven­der and sky blue), are as­sem­bled into ge­o­met­ri­cal mo­saics (evok­ing the Moor­ish art of zel­lige tiles), cov­er­ing en­tire floors and parts of the walls. ‘Ev­ery tile that you see has a place,’ af­firms Pardo. ‘It’s like a paint­ing.’ A 5,200 sq m, lu­mi­nous, oddly frag­mented paint­ing which hints at the post-im­pres­sion­ists’ re­sponse to the lo­cal light and land­scape. ‘There’s a deep par­al­lel be­tween our use of colour,’ ad­mits Pardo, point­ing to van Gogh’s later paint­ings. ‘A lot of it has to do with the quality of the light that ex­ists here.’

In a re­gion bur­dened by un­em­ploy­ment, could the ten con­tain­ers’ worth of tiles at l’ar­la­tan have been sourced lo­cally to sup­port the econ­omy, in­stead of be­ing shipped from Mex­ico? Hoff­mann ex­plains that it was im­pos­si­ble to find a ce­ramic work­shop, will­ing and able to do the job, in the area. But a num­ber of other fea­tures – in­clud­ing wooden door frames, con­crete work and handrails – were pro­duced and as­sem­bled lo­cally. ‘For me, it was im­por­tant to have a pro­duc­tion di­a­logue be­tween both places,’ says Pardo, who worked closely with the Ar­les-based ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dio of Max Ro­manet.

While cater­ing to the sea­sonal waves of tourists vis­it­ing Ar­les (its sum­mer pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val, Les Ren­con­tres d’ar­les, brings more than 100,000 visi­tors), l’ar­la­tan will also become an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the Luma Ar­les art cen­tre. Launched by Hoff­mann in 2014, Luma Ar­les op­er­ates pri­mar­ily in and around the Parc des Ate­liers, out of

‘The aes­thetic is not nec­es­sar­ily re­spond­ing to the an­tiq­uity,’ says Pardo, but is more about light and colours

a former rail de­pot con­verted by US firm Sell­dorf Ar­chi­tects, soon to be flanked by a glis­ten­ing, 56m-high Frank Gehry tower, due in 2020. (‘We’re wait­ing for it like the Mes­siah!’ ex­claimed our taxi driver as we made our way from the train sta­tion.)

Together with her ‘Core Group’ – a troop of art-world su­per­stars act­ing as ad­vi­sors, in­clud­ing Hans Ul­rich Obrist, Liam Gil­lick and Beatrix Ruf – Hoff­mann has imag­ined Luma Ar­les as an ur­ban ar­chi­pel­ago, where build­ings are in con­ver­sa­tion with one another as well as with their environment (the cen­tral drum of Gehry’s tower, for in­stance, echoes Ar­les’ iconic Ro­man am­phithe­atre). ‘It be­comes a more trans­ver­sal way of think­ing,’ ar­gues the art col­lec­tor and pa­tron, whose pro­gramme at Luma Ar­les fea­tures large-scale art and ar­chi­tec­ture ex­hi­bi­tions, talks, in­sti­tu­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions and a so­cial-de­sign work­shop fo­cus­ing on Ar­les’ sur­round­ings.

With its artists’ res­i­dences, l’ar­la­tan is cer­tainly set to become a vi­tal re­source for the cen­tre. Since its in­cep­tion, Luma has or­gan­ised a num­ber of tai­lored, in­vi­ta­tion-based res­i­den­cies with the likes of Turk­ish artist Ah­met Öğüt, French critic and cu­ra­tor Anna Colin and, cur­rently, Span­ish philoso­pher and trans­gen­der ac­tivist Paul B Pre­ci­ado. ‘A com­mu­nal space will change the dy­namic of the res­i­den­cies,’ ex­plains Julie Boukobza, who runs the pro­gramme. ‘It will en­hance the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween res­i­dents.’

From a Ro­man basil­ica to a Re­nais­sance palace and now a con­tem­po­rary, art-friendly ho­tel, l’ar­la­tan’s many lives share a dis­tinct legacy of en­light­ened, artis­tic con­ver­sa­tions. ‘His­tory re­peats it­self,’ af­firms the con­ser­va­tion ex­pert Renzo Wieder, point­ing to the her­itage of art and ar­chi­tec­ture that has shaped the aes­thet­ics of the site through­out the cen­turies.

As for van Gogh’s artist colony, time will tell whether it was just a doomed fan­tasy or a real­ity now in the mak­ing. In the mean­time, Pardo’s in­ter­ven­tion at l’ar­la­tan of­fers an un­canny re­sponse to the Dutch­man’s pre­dic­tion that, ‘the painter of the fu­ture will be a colourist the like of which has never yet been seen’.∂ L’ar­la­tan, by Jorge Pardo, opens late sum­mer 2018; enquiries via luma-ar­les.org. Pardo has an ex­hi­bi­tion of new work at Neuger­riem­schnei­der, Ber­lin, 14 Septem­ber–20 Oc­to­ber, neuger­riem­schnei­der.com

Maja Hoff­mann, Pres­i­dent of the luma foun­da­tion, and artist Jorge Pardo, in the court­yard of l’ar­la­tan Ho­tel in ar­les, a 15th-cen­tury former Palace that will House 30 rooms and 11 artists’ res­i­dences

above and op­po­site, some of the ho­tel’s new rooms and res­i­dences, for which a mil­lion tiles were made

Jorge Pardo’s orig­i­nal art­work for this month’s limited-edi­tion cover (avail­able to sub­scribers, see wall­pa­per.com) is a com­po­si­tion of dig­i­tally ma­nip­u­lated im­ages rep­re­sent­ing the artist and friends on mex­ico’s yu­catán Penin­sula

Above, the tiles, each one hand­made in A work­shop in ticul, Yu­catán, con­tinue in the bath­rooms

Left, a se­ries of painted door pan­els by pardo, some of the thou­sands of be­spoke pieces de­signed by the artist for the project be­low, a rock­ing chair wait­ing to be in­stalled in the new rooms. most of the fur­ni­ture is made us­ing parota, a gold­en­brown wood sourced from chi­a­pas, mex­ico

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