In 1983, Yolande Clergue, a curator married to the photographer Lucien Clergue, founded the association for the creation of the Fondation Van Gogh with the aim of promoting cultural and artistic activities referencing Van Gogh’s work during the time he spent in Arles from February 1988 to May 1988. During this period, inspired by the colours and landscapes of Provence, Van Gogh produced over 200 paintings. Two years later Mrs Clergue proposed to contemporary artists that they offer a tribute to Van Gogh.
Francis Bacon responded by producing a painting specifically for the Foundation. In all, more than 90 artists chose to contribute to this homage to Van Gogh, including David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein. The relationship with contemporary art was enshrined within the principles of the Fondation right from its conception. By presenting Van Gogh’s paintings in the context of works by contemporary artists, the Fondation aims to stimulate a fruitful dialogue centred on interrogation and reflection.
In 2008, Yolande Clergue’s original ambition was given new momentum by Luc Hoffmann, a Swiss ornithologist and philanthropist who founded the World Wildlife Fund and champions the region’s Camargue wetlands. (Hoffmann LaRoche) In 2010, the Mayor of Arles proposed that the Fondation be housed in the Hotel Léautaud de Donines. This was originally a 15th Century fortified private building, which had been since 1954, the home of the Banque de France. Luc Hoffmann financed the renovation which was undertaken by Fluor, the French architectural firm who had also renovated Arles’2000-year-old amphitheatre.
In 2011, renovation work began to transform the interior into an exhibition space. Two years later Bice Curiger was offered the position of artistic director. Then the curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich, she took up the post the following year after curating the 54th Venice Biennale (2011) Bice Curiger commissioned contemporary artists, Bertrand Lavier and Raphael Hefti to create permanent installations for the new entrance area which pay tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. The entrance gate, by Lavier, is conceived as a hybrid sculpture which acts as a welcome sign and blends comfortably into its surroundings.
Hefti has also designed a multi-coloured glass ceiling over the Foundation’s shop, which reacts to the changing Provencal light. The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh opened in April 2014. Exhibitions of contemporary artists which pay tribute to the Dutch master are held once or twice a year, alongside Van Gogh’s original works. The Fondation cooperates with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to show his works on rotation.
WATCH AN INTERVIEW WITH BRICE CURIGER, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: