Parisians set for all-night ‘artistic hike’ across city

For this year’s edition of Paris’s all-night art party “Nuit Blanche,” organizers are taking participants on a hike through installations and performances scattered across the City of Light.

Parisians set for all-night 'artistic hike' across city
Viewers will get at an eye-popping selection of art at this weekend's Nuit Blanche, like these folks did at Dominique Lacloche's installation at last year's edition.

This is now the 13th year that Paris is putting on its Nuit Blanche art celebration — set for 8pm Saturday to 7am Sunday — and finally it will be much harder to end up wandering aimlessly through the city at night.

For the first time organizers have created a circuit running the length, width and perimeter of the southern half of the city that is marked by an actual blue line on the pavement.

And given that it’s Nuit Blanche, literally “White Night,” but which translates as “up until dawn,” it’ll be great to have some help for the test of endurance that lies ahead.

Though if you could still use a little more guidance there's an app for the event and here's the full program (in French).

'Grande Randonée'

Organizers have dubbed the blue-lined route the "Grande Randonée Artistique" drawing the first two-thirds of its name from France’s popular national system of hiking trails.

Revellers take photos at Fujiko Nakaya's installation at the 2013 edition of Nuit Blanche (AFP)

It’ll take people from Paris Town Hall to Montparnasse and all the way out to Gare d’Austerlitz with a passage via the Petite Ceinture, a railway line that rings the city and which has been out of service since 1939. Yet the most of the line’s tunnels, tracks and stations are still around.

Many of the sections are abandoned and decaying, but one part of the Petite Ceinture (Little Belt) that’s included in this year’s Nuit Blanche has been converted into a walking path and park.

What's on

Among the 40 artists participating there will be Motoi Yamamoto from Japan who's going to use salt to create a temporary work during the night at Paris Town Hall.

The HeHe Collective – Helen Evans et Heiko Hansen – will transform a tree at Parc Montsouris into a bioluminescent object.

London-based United Visual Artists will run an installation in conjunction with trip hop group Massive Attack that’s to include 46 sound-emitting columns and light that will respond to the movements of the audience.   

A Paris tradition

The Nuit Blanche was born in 2002 in Paris with the intention of having a festive art event with broad appeal. Much like Paris Plages, the city’s summer pop up beach event, the Nuit Blanche has been emulated by scores of cities around the world.

Though the party got off to a rocky start in the City of Light. In its inaugural year Paris's Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who'd backed the event, was stabbed while on the streets that night. He recovered and the event continued. 

Here Nuit Blache's organizer explains (in French) what's behind this year's event:

Nuit blanche 2014 : une grande randonnée… by mairiedeparis

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Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles

Rising high beyond an ancient Roman arena in Arles, a tall, twisted tower created by Frank Gehry shimmers in the sun, the latest futuristic addition to this southern French city known for its World Heritage sites.

Futuristic Gehry tower opens in World Heritage Arles
Gehry's Luma Tower opens in Arles, France. Photo: H I / Pixabay

The tower, which opens to the public on Saturday, is the flagship attraction of a new “creative campus” conceived by the Swiss Luma arts foundation that wants to offer artists a space to create, collaborate and showcase their work.

Gehry, the 92-year-old brain behind Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall, wrapped 11,000 stainless steel panels around his tower above a huge glass round base.

It will house contemporary art exhibitions, a library, and offices, while the Luma Arles campus as a whole will host conferences and live performances.

From a distance, the structure reflects the changing lights of this town that inspired Van Gogh, capturing the whiteness of the limestone Alpilles mountain range nearby which glows a fierce orange when the sun sets.

Mustapha Bouhayati, the head of Luma Arles, says the town is no stranger to
imposing monuments; its ancient Roman arena and theatre have long drawn the

The tower is just the latest addition, he says. “We’re building the heritage of tomorrow.”

Luma Arles spreads out over a huge former industrial wasteland.

Maja Hoffmann, a Swiss patron of the arts who created the foundation, says
the site took seven years to build and many more years to conceive.

Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the Luma Foundation. Photo: Pascal GUYOT / AFP

Aside from the tower, Luma Arles also has exhibition and performance spaces in former industrial buildings, a phosphorescent skatepark created by South Korean artist Koo Jeong A and a sprawling public park conceived by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.

‘Arles chose me’

The wealthy great-granddaughter of a founder of Swiss drug giant Roche, Hoffmann has for years been involved in the world of contemporary art, like her grandmother before her.

A documentary producer and arts collector, she owns photos by Annie Leibovitz and Diane Arbus and says she hung out with Jean-Michel Basquiat in New York.

Her foundation’s stated aim is to promote artists and their work, with a special interest in environmental issues, human rights, education and culture.

She refuses to answer a question on how much the project in Arles cost. But as to why she chose the 53,000-strong town, Hoffmann responds: “I did not choose Arles, Arles chose me.”

She moved there as a baby when her father Luc Hoffmann, who co-founded WWF,
created a reserve to preserve the biodiversity of the Camargue, a region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhone river delta known for its pink flamingos.

The tower reflects that, with Camargue salt used as mural panels and the
delta’s algae as textile dye.

Hoffmann says she wants her project to attract more visitors in the winter, in a town where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the poverty line.

Some 190 people will be working at the Luma project over the summer, Bouhayati says, adding that Hoffman has created an “ecosystem for creation”.