U-BOAT PENS BECOME ART
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A WWII GERMAN SUBMARINE BASE NEAR BORDEAUX, FRANCE HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED INTO A VIBRANT ART CENTRE, DISPLAYING THE WORKS OF LATE 19TH CENTURY PAINTERS AS NEVER BEFORE.

Established in June this year, the Bassins de Lumières is the brainchild of Culturespaces – a French company specialising in creating digital art centres and immersive exhibitions – and the former U-boat base presented the perfect venue.

Digital versions of famous paintings are projected on to the walls of the base’s vast concrete chambers (110m long by 12m high) – and they’re also reflected in the water. This adds a new dimension to experiencing art – particularly as the paintings are viewed against a backing soundtrack from the works of composers such as Wagner, Beethoven and Mahler. Visitors view the paintings from gangways above the water and along the quays of the pens.

The U-boat base was built in 1941 to accommodate 15 submarines. Constructed in super-strong concrete it survived the Allies’ best bombing efforts. It was finally closed down when Bordeaux was liberated in August 1944, but over the decades the base has been used as a metallurgy plant, a venue for festivals and, on occasion, as a film set.

Culturespaces’ installation uses 90 video-projectors and 100km of fibre-optic cable. The company had previously established two similar venues – the Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-deProvence (created in a Roman-era limestone quarry) and the Atelier des Lumières in Paris. The Bassins de Lumières is the biggest by far – three times the size of the facility in Les Baux-de-Provence.

The centre will exhibit work from a range of artists from all eras, but for the inaugural exhibition elected to display works from Gustav Klimt and Paul Klee. It runs until January next year.

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