The birth of her children in the late nineties brought home to Hoffmann the urgency of making her mark, though it wasn’t until she founded LUMA, in 2004, that she defined her mission. “I lived out of a suitcase until I had the children,” she says. In addition to the one in Zurich, she’s since set up homes in London’s Mayfair; on the island of Mustique; in a 17th-century château in Arles; and in a chalet in Gstaad that she purchased from Elizabeth Taylor. Hoffmann, Buchthal, and their children first lived in New York and then in Zurich; these days, they’re based in London. Despite the drop-dead artworks and furniture in all of their abodes, each home is designed for casual family living; mementos mix easily with vintage tables by Prouvé, Carlo Mollino bunk beds, and lamps by Jorge Pardo.
Two days after her dinner in Zurich, Hoffmann was in Basel for the VIP opening of the art fair. When I arrived at her apartment in the city’s historic section, Nicholas Serota and Tate Modern director Chris Dercon were on their way out. Hoffmann had already been to the fair that morning and had purchased a few works she planned to install in the various hotels she owns in Arles. (She hired India Mahdavi, who did her London house, to design one of them. If the world is going to come to Arles, Hoffmann wants to make sure there are nice rooms.) Fine dining is yet another of her concerns: Since 2000, she and Buchthal have run the Michelin-starred La Chassagnette, an organic restaurant on a 500-acre farm across the way from their home in Arles. As Ruf sees her, Hoffmann is the “mayor” of Arles. “She wants it to be her Marfa,” she adds, referring to the thriving arts colony in the West Texas town where Donald Judd once lived. While Gehry completes his plans, Hoffmann’s core group will test-drive the experimental programs it hopes will become a mainstay of the Parc des Ateliers. One objective is that viewers will not simply look at art but also move around it and experience it being made. To that end, this past July, as part of “To the Moon via the Beach”—an evolving exhibition curated by Parreno and Gillick—Arles’s Roman amphitheater was filled with sand, and over four days, 20 artists, including Klara Lidén, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Lawrence Weiner, produced works in and around it, as a team of sand sculptors transformed the space from a beach to a moonscape. Next up, in October, is Aitken’s ambitious 12-screen installation “Altered Earth—Arles, a City of Moving Images” (complete with an app). But already, Hoffmann has her eye on another project.
Did I know Cocteau’s last film, The Testament of Orpheus? she asked me suddenly in Basel and, without waiting for an answer, pulled it up on YouTube. The 1960 movie stars Cocteau, with a cameo by Picasso, and was shot in the caves of Les Baux-de-Provence, 10 minutes from Arles. As she peered at the screen through her glasses, she explained that LUMA owns the archives of the auteur Derek Jarman and that she hoped to present a Jarman film festival inside caves not far from the ones we were now looking at. “You have a mountain of projects,” I said absentmindedly, distracted by the footage. “You know,” Hoffmann replied pointedly, “if you only see mountains, you never do anything.”