Located in Aix-en-Provence, the Vasarely Foundation plunges visitors into the graphic, colourful world of visual artist Victor Vasarely, the founder of the Op Art movement, fascinated by geometric shapes, and optical and kinetic illusions.
The man with a thousand and one lives
His name remains forever associated with his colourful geometric compositions and works based on optical illusions. A visual artist and founding father of the Op Art (or optical art) movement, Victor Vasarely (1906-1997) had several lives. Born in Hungary, this jack of all trades trained at the Muhëly, the Bauhaus School of Budapest, which fostered a multidisciplinary approach to art. On his arrival in France, he became a graphic designer for major advertising agencies. Designed in the late 1930s, “Zebra” is now considered as the founding work of the Op Art movement. In the years that followed, Vasarely continued to forge his artistic identity focusing on lines and colour. He diversified his projects, opening a foundation in Gordes, designing logos, facades and even the cover of David Bowie’s album “Space Oddity”…
The “Polychrome City of Happiness”
Yet his life’s work remains the Vasarely Foundation, his “Polychrome City of Happiness”. A synthesis of architecture and visual arts, built in aluminium and glass, it aptly reflects the artist’s obsession with geometry. “The location of this centre had been a concern to me for over twenty years”, said Vasarely. The project finally came to fruition in the town of Aix-en-Provence – the birthplace of Cézanne -, whom he deeply admired. Various firms were selected to build huge works, up to 8 metres high and 6 metres wide, based on drawings supplied by Vasarely. The Foundation was inaugurated in 1976.
Blurring the lines
Optical and kinetic illusions
Optical illusions reign here, plunging visitors into a world where shapes combine and interact to infinity. Outside, a mirror-like pool of water reflects the vast, ultra-contemporary building. When you open the doors, you are met with seven “cells”, each measuring 11 metres in height, housing Vasarely’s 42 architectonic installations. The works are set out to guide visitors through a series of colours, materials, and optical and kinetic illusions. The permanent exhibition devoted to the “Father of Opt Art” relates the story of Vasarely’s work from his beginnings as a graphic designer to his utopian “Polychrome City of Happiness” project.
Manipur, Tlinko, Majus…
Art in every shape and form
Over the course of the tour, visitors also learn how Vasarely, fascinated by geometric shapes, strove to bring them to life. The “Manipur” series features several works based on parallel lines and is the fruit of a childhood memory: the cables strung over Hungary’s railway tracks. With “Tlinko”, he created movement inside a static square by inserting revolving diamonds and squares to generate the illusion of a spiral. Another major work, “Majus” was formed using an alphabet of shapes and colours imagined by Vasarely, inspired by a piece composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. Its hidden meaning remains unknown but that’s by the by: “Majus” symbolizes the father of Op Art’s dream of uniting every art form…