1956: Arrives in the Camargue
1977: Joins the board of the Emmanuel Hoffmann Foundation in Basel – a baptismal immersion in contemporary art
2006: Brings together Frank Gehry and a core group of consultants to think out and develop a cultural campus on the site of the abandoned railway sheds in Arles*
«Frank Gehry’s steel building with its silver reflections and its free, sculptural form will be the hub of the LUMA Arles campus from 2017. It will be the fruit of a courageous dream: to create a space with the resources to become an active production centre integrated into the artistic, intellectual, ecological, social and economic fabric of Arles and the Camargue.
Art in the genes
In part, this project is a continuation of the work of my father, Luc Hoffmann. Heir to the Roche pharmaceutical company, from the early 1950s he preferred field studies of bird life to laboratory work. Ornithologist, ecologist, philanthropist and joint founder of WWF International, he was the driving force for the creation of the Camargue wildlife reserve and regional nature park. He also inherited a deep love of art from his mother, a great art patron and collector in Basel. His example is an ever-renewed source of inspiration for me. The LUMA Arles campus will be a place for artists and thinkers, whether scientists or philosophers, to work without the burden usually imposed by the practices and structures of art institutions. Most such institutions are too weighed down with responsibilities and the sheer size of their collections to remain flexible. My idea throughout has been that this site, while acting as a hub for the international artistic and intellectual community, a place for working, producing, debating and transmitting knowledge and discoveries, should also be a place for informally strolling around, gleaning inspiration and talking to others on a day-to-day basis; a place with genuine local roots.
Redefining the contours of the world
My work as a producer and my participation on the boards of the Tate Gallery, the Palais de Tokyo and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and my long-term support for the Venice Biennale and the Rencontres d’ Arles international photo festival, have convinced me that contemporary art is positioned in a meta-reality where everything is still possible. And that it is an ideal tool and platform for questioning the foundations of the world as we know it and rebuilding it on a different grounding. Arles was the natural choice for me. The town lends itself to peaceful, in-depth discussions, and there’s also the light that Vincent van Gogh loved, the rich heritage and the fact that for a decade already the old railway workshops had been coming alive each summer for the festivals. Above all, it’s in the Camargue that I have felt the infinite. It’s here that my eye has matured, learnt to see the big picture and remain generous rather than tarrying over details. I arrived here when I was 15 days old,I went to school here and I have always been deeply attached to the place.» * The LUMA Campus will involve all Arles’ cultural stakeholders (Regional authority, city council, Actes Sud, ENSP, the Rencontres d’Arles etc.).
By Maurice Gouiran