Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Van Gogh's yellow house was bombed in WW2. Just as well, perhaps; it'd be a dreadful tourist trap today. Better spend time looking at the drawings and paintings – but there are none on display in Arles.

The designer Christian Lacroix is from Arles, and the Musée Réattu has close contacts with him. A number of rooms have carpets made from his drawings: it's extraordinary to walk on the soft pile of these drawings. The Musée also has a sound installation, a raised wooden floor you are invited to walk over, barefoot: there are speakers beneath it, and you feel the sounds of a subterranean city through the soles of your feet. It feels clearer if you block your ears, and it's a curious experience to invert the normal order of perception happening at the top of the body.

Other than that, the musee shows a small modern collection, including photos, and a 'Picasso gift' of some 57 pieces, which aren't all on display. But in some ways the extensive 18th century building itself is the display, a whole maze of different-sized rooms, on different levels, with corridors behind old doors with antique latches, a maze in which every part is a centre. If you're assiduous you eventually find a room full of beanbags where you can lie all day and listen to 'sound art', and there's probably more that I never discovered. & every now and again you look out over the Rhone. The staff are unusually laid back and friendly.

Christian Lacroix, I read, filed for bankruptcy a few years back, at the beginning of the recession. In 20 years, his company never really made money despite his reputation, and prominent commissions like the entire reworking of the interior of the TGV trains. Apparently, he doesn't even own his own name, Christian Lacroix, any more, and has to work under variations of it.

Musée Réattu carpets

The Rhone at Arles

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