Ancient and Modern Arles: Roman Amphitheatre, 90 AD Backdropped by Frank Gehry Gleaming Tower. Photo: l’aimable authorization de Franz Buhler (Suisse)

Editor’s Note

From July through September, Arles, the “Gallic Rome” nestled on the sultry Rhône, hosts the Rencontres d’Arles, an international photography festival. The photo fest celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 with a record-shattering 145,000 visitors.

In turn, an industrial wasteland of 24 acres near the town center is undergoing a transformation. Luma Arles is a vast contemporary arts complex funded by the Luma Foundation under the direction of Maja Hoffmann, a pharmaceutical heiress (Hoffmann-La Roche) and a forceful patron of the arts, in the authentic heft of that calling.

The Times made a brazen undocumented claim in an article, bylined Nina Siegal, “Maja Hoffmann Fights to Build Her Cultural Capital in Arles, France.” that Luma Arles has replaced Rencontres d’Arles as the “main cultural draw to Arles.” How so, since the claim, bereft of any evidence that readers could count on for veracity and solidity, was made more than 32 months before Luma Arles opens in 2021.

Beyond such grotesqueries, the painful material reflects a dependence on secondary and tertiary, albeit unreliable, sources. The baffling errors are noted below:

The Times reported:  “If you’re not one of the 35,000 residents of Arles….”

False: City of Arles website reports a population of 53,629.

The Times reported: “Mayor Hervé Schiavetti of Arles, unlike his predecessor, is a fan (of Luma Arles).”

False. Any self-respecting editor should have flinched at the absence of the identity of the Mayor’s predecessor in the article. He is Paolo Toeschi. He left office in 2001, 3 years before the Luma Foundation was even founded, and seven years before the Fondation signed a protocol to develop the Parc des Ateliers. Mr. Toeschi, whose current employer is the French département of the Gard, had no chance to be, or not to be, a fan.

The Times reported: “…art complex built on a 15-acre plot of parched earth and defunct rail yard, known as the Parc des Ateliers.”

Incorrect: The industrial wasteland known as the Parc des Ateliers has a surface of 10 hectares, or 24.7 acres.  Source: Journal –  “The Parc des Ateliers cover 10 hectares.” Source: AREA PACA, the manager for the Parc des Ateliers divides a total area of 11.4 hectares into three sectors, “10ha for Luma Arles.” 

The Times reported: “Ms. Hoffmann and Mr. Gehry had to revise the design for the tower to win the approval of the city.”

False: The National Commission of Historical Monuments, not the City of Arles, rejected the design in March, 2011. The Commission approved a new design presented in December, 2012.

The Times reported: “…he (François Hébel) resigned in protest in 2014.”

False: Mr. Hébel resigned on November 5, 2013, in an impassioned five-page letter to Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the President of the Board of Rencontres d’Arles. His “démission” received a tsunami of press coverage. On Nov. 8, Mayor Hervé Schiavetti published a communiqué on the City of Arles website expressing his gratitude for M. Hébel’s long tenure. Note: The Times omitted the accent aigu from Hébel.

The Times reported: “After her father initiated plans to build the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles, when he was in his 90s, she became an organizing force for the museum, which opened in 2013;

False: The Fondation was inaugurated on April 7, 2014, at which time it opened to the public with the exposition “Van Gogh Live!” This was the same weekend as a stone-laying ceremony at Luma Arles for the Frank Gehry-designed tower.

The Times reported: “the annual Rencontres d’Arles photography festival…..(with about 125,000 attendees this summer)…”

False: The festival in 2018 had 140,000 attendees. The 125,000 figure is for 2017. 

A Glaring Omission: “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey”

No mention was made of the exhibits of Rencontres d’Arles at Luma Arles in Les Forges, notably the riveting “The Train: RFK’s Last Journey,” produced by MOMA San Francisco, that drew raves from Louis Menard of The New Yorker.

Model of Luma Arles Anchored by A Twisting Tower Designed by Frank Gehry