Art on a grand scale

What an ambitious undertaking to develop contemporary art in rural areas! The geographical and geological particularities of this territory are its particular strengths. Since the 1990s, its mountains and valleys have attracted many internationally renowned artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, Herman de Vries, Joan Fontcuberta, Paul-Armand Gette, Richard Nonas, Mark Dion, to name but a few. All of them have come to seek and find their inspiration from these places. Their wanderings, as well as their encounters with the local inhabitants, are at the origin of a collection of artworks dotted throughout this territory.

The Special History Of The Gassendi Museum And The CAIRN Art Centre

The Gassendi Museum, the initiator of this innovative project, has made art a specific feature of the UNESCO Geopark territory. Founded in 1885, the Gassendi Museum combines 19th century Provencal landscape-paintings and natural history collections with contemporary artworks. Since 1995, it has developed outdoor artistic installations, far from galleries and museums, among the serenity of wild nature. The desire is to create in nature and with nature. In this context, art no longer has a market-value, it becomes a real experience, free of charge, that everyone can experience and appreciate. This approach and practice comes from the artistic movement called "Land Art", which was born in the 1960s in the desert of the American West.

UGHP_Animation_Musée Gassendi

Also as part of an initiative of the Gassendi Museum, the #34CAIRN Art Centre was created in 2000. As an artistic centre, a creative workshop or laboratory of sorts, it supports and encourages artists to create contemporary artwork to be exhibited in rural areas. The CAIRN Art Centre continues the work of the Gassendi Museum with the production of works on-site.

Exposition á mes pieds, herman de vries, CAIRN centre d'art, 2015

How To Discover Contemporary Art In The Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark?

Explore the northern part of the UNESCO Geopark on the Themed Discovery Route named #35The Route of Artistic Imprints & Tracks in the Earth's Memory, and enter the depths of the area's geological history. Surprising works of art are superbly integrated into the landscape, such as #36"Windows" by Herman de Vries, which open up a field of view, a perspective that is often invisible - a vision of the past.

herman de vries_Fenêtre_Vallon d'Escour
herman de vries_point Vallée du Bes

Designed and created by the British artist #37Andy Goldsworthy, #38Refuge d’Art (a Land Art Installation Trail) offers walking-itineraries or a hiking loop with a stopover (either for a short rest or an overnight stay) in a mountain-refuge housing a work of art by the artist. This 150km route, marked out by the Sentinels, follows ancient paths and crosses stunning landscapes. Staying in a Refuge d'Art (an Art Refuge), lulled to sleep by the flames of an open fire, is one of the many unforgettable experiences offered by the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark.

This unconventional, extraordinary artistic project raises truly anthropological questions about the link between the land-artwork installation and the place where it is installed, which itself bears the traces of both geological and human history.

Andy Goldsworthy_ Refuge d'Art des Bains-Thermaux

In the Museum park, walking along a path or along a stream, the collection of artworks on display is rich and varied, from #39Sylvie Bussières's Fountain of Teapots to #40Curt Asker's Triangle. For more information and further deails, check out our #41List & Directory of Artists and Artworks.

Fontaine de théières_Photographe Cyrille de Villèle et de la Ville de Digne-les-Bains 1

The CAIRN Art centre also offers, in an exhibition room in the park of the Promenade Museum, three consecutive exhibitions from the beginning of April to the end of November. In these exhibitions, artwork from the outside world is brought inside and placed within four walls prompting a continuous interrogation between it and the geography of the places that surround us.
#42Actually in CAIRN ART Centre…



Exposition á mes pieds, herman de vries, CAIRN centre d'art, 2015

Visits and walks can be done independently on your own or with a guide. #43L’Art en chemin, art themed walking-trails with an association of accommodation-providers and mountain guides trained in presenting and explaining the artworks exhibited throughout the walking-trail. They will be delighted to share with you all sorts of anecdotes about the development of the works.

Art en chemin

#44The mobile-phone application AMBULO, provides information regarding all the contemporary art themed routes to do, by bike, car or on foot, in Digne and the surrounding areas.


The latest edition of the guidebook, #45L’art des parcours (Art Routes), suggests 20 contemporary art themed routes starting from Digne-les-Bains. Available at the Gassendi Museum, the CAIRN Art Centre or the Digne-les-Bains Tourist Office (€15)

L'Art des parcours 1L'art des parcours 2