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September 2021

The artists’ Cairn

  • The greats have passed through this artistic laboratory in the mountains: Land Art figure Andy Goldsworthy, Herman de Vries, Giuseppe Penone, and Abraham Poincheval, to name but a few. Not to be overlooked
Vue de l’exposition Flash Back, revenant sur vingt ans de création au Cairn dans une scénographie d’une impressionnante minutie.
Andy Goldsworthy, Andy Goldsworthy, Refuge du Vieil Esclangon. Emblématique du concept de refuge d’art. © A. Sauvan
Andy Goldswothy_Refuge Bains Thermaux.
Carré magique de l’artiste Herman de Vries. L’artiste qui écrit quant à lui toujours son nom en minuscules, aime à écrire des messages sur les pierres.
Herman Devries cabinet botanique.
Sébastien Renzé, Station d’Entrevaux. L’artiste a conçu son parcours comme la remontée du lit d’une rivière, en lien avec les arbres, les cailloux et leurs couleurs naturelles. © Sébastien Reuzé

This pile of stones is a walker’s landmark. But Cairn is also an acronym for “Informal Art Centre for Research on Nature”, a unique space in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department. This rural artists’residence for the production of works and exhibitions created in 2000 is fundamentally embedded within its territory. Located in the spa town of Digne-les-Bains, it is in dialogue with the water. Not forgetting, intrinsically linked to the neighbouring Gassendi Museum with its paintings and naturalist collections and the Haute-Provence Unesco Geopark environment. So, don’t be surprised to find an entire room in the museum dedicated to British artist Andy Goldsworthy, the first to have created a permanent work in situ typical of the Dignoise experience, or Herman de Vries’dots, traces and windows scattered throughout the contemporary art trails in the Geopark—a 23,000m2 nature reserve! For those unfamiliar with the Cairn, the Flash-Back exhibition—on display until 31 October—retraces 20 years of this great adventure on a human scale with wooden scenography highlighting archive documents. And between the outdoor sculptures in the Cairn park, the installations housed in the Gassendi Museum and the collections of permanent works spread throughout the Unesco site, another way of experiencing art has opened up to visitors. Beyond the rhetoric, in a non-invasive relationship with the landscape, with life, between walking and roaming.
Cairn, Centre d’Art, 10 montée Bernard WDellacasagrande, Digne-les-Bains.
Tél. 04 92 62 11 73

Train des Pignes travel diary
If you want to go from Nice to Digne-les-Bains for a weekend, how about taking the Train des Pignes, a real trip down memory lane? An opportunity to cross the Nice hinterland to Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Artist Sébastien Reuzé has installed large-format photographs in stations along the route and created a journal on Instagram, inspired by this path between rivers, mountains, chestnuts, and lavender. A project supported by the Alpes et Riviera Botox (s) contemporary art network—Cairn is a member too. The service runs until 10 October.

A restful stopover in Digne-les-Bains
The water that supplies the Thermes de Digne-les-Bains, gushing out at 50°C from the 870m deep Ophélia borehole, is rich in minerals—particularly sulphur. People come here to take advantage of its analgesic and anti-infection properties, be it for a cure or a relaxing break. The climatic resort also boasts exciting accommodation and restaurants. The small 3-star Hôtel Villa Gaia, set in an eighteenth-century house in the heart of a wooded park, has retained some of its yesteryear furniture. The Golf Hôtel has 13 rooms on Les Lavandes—Digne-les-Bains’18-hole course—for greens enthusiasts. 25 minutes away, in Châteaux-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, discriminating diners won’t want to miss the Relais & Chateaux gourmet restaurant La Bonne Etape, where Maître Cuisinier de France Jany Gleize reinvents his grandmother Gabrielle’s Provençal recipes.