Discover contemporary creation while walking, this is the invitation made by the Gassendi Museum, a “Museum of France” according to the name of the Ministry of Culture, whose Mountain art collection is deployed on the territory ofUNESCO Haute-Provence Geopark.

Walk to meet the works of Herman de Vries, Joan Fontcuberta, Paul-Armand Gette, Richard Nonas, Mark Dion, Trevor Gould, Delphine Gigoux-Martin, Till Roeskens, Lara Almarcegui and sleep in an Andy Art Refuge Goldsworthy, are unique experiences to be had in the heart of unspoilt wilderness.

For around twenty years, artists have created works revealing the natural, historical, cultural and social specificities of the territory. Produced by the Center d’Art Informel de Recherche sur la Nature (CAIRN), these works then joined the collection of the Gassendi Museum which ensures its sustainability.

The museum visitor, who has become a hiker, re-takes forgotten mountain paths to connect “place works” where they can stop or even spend the night.

Alain Sauvan

Stone Sentinel

The Authon sentinel is part of the work Refuge d'Art imagined by Andy Golsworthy.

Art as a pretext for walking

Art Refuge – Andy Goldsworthy

Refuge d’art is a work of art to be covered in around ten days of walking.
Designed by the British artist Andy Goldsworthy in partnership with the Gassendi Museum and the National Geological Nature Reserve of Haute-Provence, this unique route in the world crosses 150 km of the exceptional landscapes of the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence.
A singular experience than that of Andy Goldsworthy, an internationally recognized artist, who imagined a project combining contemporary art and the preservation of rural heritage in the protected territory of the National Geological Nature Reserve of Haute-Provence around Digne-les-Bains.
Connecting three Sentinels in cut dry stones that the artist made in three valleys, the 150 km route through the mountains follows old paths and crosses the traces of a once intense agricultural life.
Andy Goldsworthy's project was to renovate certain ruined buildings (chapels,
farms, jas, etc.) so that hikers can not only take shelter there but also contemplate a unique work of art in the world.

Other creations are underway with the aim of combining contemporary art and the preservation of rural heritage in a unique way.

Nap break in front of the Esclangon art refuge
PAA The Naturographer

Art refuges

Since 1999 with the support of the Gassendi Museum, the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence and the Natural Geological Reserve of Haute Provence, 7 refuges and 3 sentinels have been created:

“It’s a project for life, it will be my most important work but it will always remain unfinished”

The Digne-les-Bains region now has the largest collection in the world of
works of Andy Goldsworthy brought together in the same space, a public space that everyone
is invited to survey. Far from a “bulimic” approach to culture, Refuge d'Art is discovered over the days, often at the rate of one Refuge or one Sentinel per day of walking.
Donated by the artist to the Gassendi Museum in 2023, more than 40 drawings of unfinished projects are exhibited at the Gassendi Museum as well as photographs of ephemeral works, videos and performances produced by the British artist during his multiple stays in the Alpes de Haute-Provence.

The sanctuary of nature – herman de vries*

*we respect the artist's desire not to use capital letters.

The idea of ​​creating a nature sanctuary in Digne-les-Bains dates from the first stay of Herman de Vries and Susanne (his wife), both of whom were struck by the presence of numerous abandoned habitats in the landscape. They immediately decided to establish this sanctuary around a ruin, in Roche-Rousse. This site owes its name to a geological feature.
Indeed, the gray limestone cliff takes on an orange patina. The ruins evoke the contingency of the world, a central theme of Buddhist thought, the impermanence of all
thing and the presence of man.
The walk required to access this site located at an altitude of 1400 meters contributes to the process of reflection and mediation specific to the project. This sanctuary, which highlights the human presence, is surrounded by a wood that Herman described as sacred.

Sanctuary of Rocherousse Herman de Vries
palindrome trace of herman de vries
The Naturographer

Another look

Herman de Vries also left behind what he calls “traces”. These are texts, philosophical fragments or points, engraved in golden letters that we encounter on hiking trails. These “traces” are landmarks or starting points for observing nature differently.

The Hydropithecus – Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta, Catalan artist, offers a critical analysis of information and communication methods. The artist questions the power of the image in its relationship to reality in order to “inoculate the virus of doubt in the viewer”.
The artist then offers us a route to explore the territory in search of Hydropithecus. These fossil skeletons of fish-tailed men, several million years old, considered to be the ancestors of mermaids, were discovered in 1947 by Abbot Jean Fontana, a Dignois geologist, on the site of Saint-Benoît park. The circuit begins with the “archives” room at the Gassendi Museum then allows the investigation to be carried out throughout five sites to try to understand the pattern of social organization of these hominids.
Through this work, Joan Fontcuberta invites the viewer to develop their critical spirit and to verify the source of their information, in the tradition of skeptical philosophers and scientists such as Gassendi whose motto is saper aude “dare to judge for yourself”.

Collar ; the second day and Edge-stones: Vière and the middle mountains – Richard Nonas

The emblematic mountain of the Bléone watershed is the Cousson where the artist
New Yorker Richard Nonas chose to settle between the two Col summits; the second day,
a line of seventy-seven wooden beams.
The work refers to the concept of "pass" which designates the place of passage between two mountains and creates a connection with the "pass of the half-open door" another of his works located in the landscape room at the "summit" of the museum Gassendi.
The artist wanted this work produced by the Fergus McCaffrey gallery for FIAC 2017 to find its definitive location in a territory that has deeply marked his work and his thinking. It is, in fact, in the surroundings of Digne-les-Bains that a
in-depth reflection on the value of places of passage led him to the creation of the work Edge-stones: Vière and the middle mountains, installed at the request of the town of Prads Haute-Bléone in an abandoned hamlet.
An anthropologist by training, what interests him and which he deals with in his works is the relationship between humans and nature.
Through the use of raw materials, simple shapes and repetitive patterns, evoking megalithic sites, he brings an immediate reality and seeks to inhabit or make
relive a place.

“Vière continues. This depopulated place, this place that we only half remember, reminds us”

Richard Nonas edge stones, abandoned hamlets

La mountain art collection, there are in total more than 160 works , which are revealed in the landscapes of the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence.
A real open-air museum that invites you to wander in search of works of art scattered in the countryside.

Where to find the works?

Before setting off to discover works of art “outside the walls”, a visit to the Gassendi museum is recommended. The Goldsworthy room allows you to understand the artist’s approach and his work over the years. In particular, we discover ephemeral works and others that have never seen the light of day. The landscape room features one of his works 'River of Earth' by comparing it to 19th century Provençal landscapes.
The Hydropithèques cabinet of Joan Fontcuberta is the starting point for a thrilling investigation which will undoubtedly stimulate your critical thinking towards science and the museum itself!
There is also the botanical office of the artist Herman de Vries.

Must-haves

Open. Closes at 17:30 p.m.
64 Boulevard Gassendi
04000 Digne-les-Bains
Calculate my route

To accompany you

Professionals, topo-guides, maps and applications

IGN Art Refuge map
The IGN Refuge d’art map indicates the route of the complete route (8 to 10 days) as well as the day hiking routes.
On the back, the hiker will find a presentation of the works as well as practical and tourist information.
2 €

“Art in the mountains” guide
20 mapped routes to discover the collection of open-air works on the territory of the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence!
In addition to the description of the routes, this guide presents the works as well as texts on the work of the artists and the history of this Dignois project.
15 €

Ambulo (App)
Head out on the trails to discover the off-the-wall works of the Gassendi museum, letting yourself be guided by the Ambulo application, downloadable for free from the App Store or the Play Store.

Departing from Digne-les-Bains or surrounding areas, four routes are available in French and English:

  • Go back with the flow and the history of the Bès Valley,
  • Look for the unusual animals of the carboniferous forest in Vernet,
  • Alexandra David-Neel’s walk in Cousson,
  • Journey to the center of the stone.
    New itineraries are regularly put online.

The Art en Chemin association
Network of mountain guides, accommodation providers, restaurateurs... aware of the mountain art collection of the Gassendi Museum.
Using their service ensures optimal support around works of art in the great outdoors.


LEADER logo

A LEADER type cooperation program entitled: Art in nature at the heart of Geoparks has enabled two French UNESCO Geoparks: the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence and the UNESCO Geopark of the Monts d'Ardèche to join forces in order to value their offer of art in nature. Objectives of this cooperation project:

  • Strengthen synergies between the two territories in terms of structuring and tourism promotion of art in nature through exchanges of experiences and the definition of shared objectives,
  • Develop a common marketing plan which will be translated into communication actions to increase the notoriety and visibility of their offer on a national and international scale
  • Generate more local economic benefits through the marketing of combined stay products and day-long discovery experiences adapted to demand and customer journeys,
  • Increase the skills of tourism stakeholders and in particular the various stakeholders who provide support and mediation missions aimed at local and tourist audiences.

https://agriculture.ec.europa.eu/common-agricultural-policy/rural-development/country_fr

Was this content useful to you?