LUXURYCULTURE.COM - James Turrell Museum


Entrepreneur and art aficionado Donald Hess dedicates his latest destination for cultivated pursuits to one of America's most prominent post-war artists, James Turrell.

What higher accolade could any artist garner than to receive a museum dedicated exclusively to their works? The new James Turrell Museum of the Hess Art Collection is just that. Commissioned and built by the Swiss wine magnate and entrepreneur Donald Hess, the 18,000 square foot art institution nestles within the idyllic surroundings of Hess’s celebrated Argentine wine estate, Bodega & Estancia Colomé. Nine light installations, accompanied by Turrell’s drawings are on show, drawn from Hess’s expansive collection of over 1,000 works of contemporary art, which spans five decades, from Abstract Expressionism through to 21st century works.

Born into an eighth-generation brewing and hotelier family, Hess acquired his first vineyard in California’s Napa Valley in the late eighties and began producing his first wines at The Hess Collection Winery in 1985. Four years later the Swiss entrepreneur extended his oenophilist vision, incorporating his passion for art by exhibiting his collection in museums built at the Hess Family Estates wineries. The South American shrine dedicated to the pre-eminent light artist is the third project, with a fourth already underway.

Turrell began exploring the ethereal properties of light as an artistic subject alongside other members of the group of “Light and Space” artists working in Los Angeles in the 1960s, which also included Robert Irwin. Whether harnessing the light at sunset or transforming the glow of a television set into a fluctuating portal, Turrell’s work takes visitors beyond the role of viewer into the realm of experience “My work is about space and the light that inhabits it. It is about how you can confront that space and plumb it. It is about your seeing, like the wordless thought that comes from looking into a fire” he explains. Over the years Hess has amassed an impressive catalog of Turrell’s illuminated oeuvres of both artificial and natural light, from Alta Green (1968) an early exploration of light and architecture, to the skyspace Unseen Blue (2002), an impressive feature of the 1,680m2 exhibition space. A continuation of the highly popular series that began in 1974, the specially commissioned showpiece is incorporated within the structural design of the museum, demonstrating the artist’s progression over the past four decades.

Last April the artist and collector celebrated the opening of the James Turrell Museum of the Hess Art Collection in Colomé, a remote village within the desert terrain of Argentina’s Salta Province. Based on a plan created by the artist himself, the space nods to Turrell’s Roden’s Crater, based within the Arizona desert. “When you think about the prophets in Israel wandering in the desert, about Joshuah or Elijah, they go through the desert. We have a history of people going to the desert, and Arizona is the high desert, which is just like Colomés. I’ve enjoyed this life in light and hope that you see the sampling of it here, so I wanted to make work that had some connection to that, what we call the nature of perception that we have into nature, into the natural surrounding, it is something that is very interesting to me. I’ve done that at Roden Crater, so I think it’s something that’s worth doing here” explains the artist.

Hess’s new art wine destination is not for the faint hearted. A four-hour trek through savage terrain is a true test for even the most ardent art aficionados, but as Hess jokes, if he had to go through the hassle of finding the right location, not to mention construction within such a remote area, it’s only fair that visitors should experience similar hardship “I had to suffer a lot to create this art space, so I’m happy with the idea that the visitor has to suffer too.” However, weary enthusiasts passionate enough to brave the journey will not be disappointed. The Bodega & Estancia Colomé comprises nine sumptuous suites, a swimming pool and spa treatments and breathtaking views, not to mention the fine wines harvested from the vineyards of the Hess Family Estates. For Hess the excitement lies in the artistic experience. While Turrell may not be on site, visitors will feel an intense closeness to the artists work, an experience that has long fascinated Hess “I would have loved to have lunched with Goya or Van Gogh, but since they are dead, I came to the conclusion that if I want to persist with the idea of having lunch with artists and peers, I have to look for ‘young’ ones, which are, by definition, alive, so I specialize in living artists from which I always learn a lot.”

The James Turrell Museum
Province of Salta, Argentina
T: +54 (0)3868 49 42 00

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