The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark is a true open-air art studio that has inspired many artists. An invitation was given to them to create their art installations outdoors in and around Digne-les-Bains. This original project has produced a collection of art works that you can appreciate while hiking. This is the only way they can be accessed, since they are scattered in nature over such a large area. Andy Goldsworthy, herman de vries or even Richard Nonas invite you to discover high-altitude villages that are now deserted and even to stay the night at one of these “art sites” – “oeuvres-lieux” in French, a concept introduced by historian Fabien Faure referring to places that can not only accommodate a sculpture, but also shelter a hiker during a quick stopover or overnight.
Art as a pretext for walks
The region of Digne-les-Bains has the largest collection of Andy Goldsworthy’s art works in the world. The British artist is well-known in the domain of Land Art. Invited for an artist-in-residence programme by the Gassendi Museum and the Haute-Provence Natural Geological Reserve at the end of the 1990s, Andy Goldsworthy fell in love with the territory of Digne, where he created his “Sentinelles” and “Refuges d’Art” during his numerous visits here. His work entitled “Refuges d’Art” is a 150km hiking route that takes you through incredible landscapes and old restored buildings inside of which the artist has created works of art. This route can be completed in 10 days; the IGN (National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information) map is available for sale at the Tourist Office. It is also possible to see the individual refuges via day hikes from Digne.
Originally from the Netherlands, herman de vries (who deliberately renders his name in lowercase) has left behind what he calls “traces”: texts and philosophical fragments that can be found along hiking trails. These little surprises may greet you as you walk or you may have to hunt for these words of wisdom engraved on stones, discreetly hidden in nature.
The Gassendi Museum and CAIRN Art Centre as preludes to hikes
The Gassendi Museum, renovated based on the model of the Cabinet of Curiosities, offers a permanent dialogue between art and science, the old and the contemporary, interior and exterior. It houses a rich collection linked to Land Artists whose work can be found on the territory of Haute Provence. It is thanks to the CAIRN (Informal Art Centre for Research on Nature), a collaboration between the Gassendi Museum and the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark that Haute Provence hosts so many works and artists of Land Art. The CAIRN regularly presents art exhibitions dedicated to nature.
Land Art beyond borders
Departing from Digne-les-Bains, Land Art trails exist to invite you on a discovery of landscapes beyond the Alps. The VIAPAC contemporary art route links Digne to the city of Caraglio in Italy thanks to the achievements of 12 renowned artists.