Centre for Op Art: Vasarely Foundation

Photos: Garry Benson (unless otherwise noted)

Foundation Vasarely

Foundation Vasarely

Image Credit: Garry Benson

Image Credit: Garry Benson

Aix-en-Provence is the site of the Vasarely Foundation – it’s a huge gallery and research centre devoted to education and the arts, particularly optical illusion and the psychology of perception. Lots of the artwork has been blown up from the original size of about 1 metre square and the gallery is thronged with kids doing art.

When I first visited Aix (pronounced ‘Ex’ though for years I said ‘Aches’) in 1976 there was a small gallery off Cours Mirabelle (the main drag) that had a few paintings by optic artist Victor Vasarely. I wasn’t in Aix for that, I wanted to see a weaving exhibition of work by Sheila Hicks and Daniel Graffin using indigo dyes.

Time travel to 2013 and voila! there’s this huge exhibition space & research centre just on the edge of town on acres of land…

Image credit: © Garry Benson 2014

Image credit: © Garry Benson 2014

The art of tomorrow will be a collective treasure or it will not be art at all. – Victor Vasarely

Image Credit: Unknown

Image Credit: Unknown

Victor Vasarely was born in Hungary on April 9, 1906, and spent his childhood in many different countries in Eastern Europe. In 1925, he enrolled at the University of Budapest in 1925 to study medicine, transferring to study traditional academic painting two years later.

Image credit: © Garry Benson 2014

Image credit: © Garry Benson 2014

He studied at the private Podolini-Volkmann Academy and Sándor Bortnyik’s műhely, later entering the Bauhaus art institute in 1929, the same year he married fellow student and artist Claire Spinner. He worked as a graphic designer for a ball bearing company where he started using the organic shapes and geometric themes that would feature in his creative work to follow.

Image Credit: © Garry Benson 2013

Image Credit: © Garry Benson 2013

By the late 1940s:

Vasarely began to understand his role as an artist, concluding that “internal geometry” was the pinnacle of his inspiration. Over the next 20 years, Vasarely developed what would be informally dubbed as the Black & White period, a style that marked a groundbreaking shift in the artist’s career…

In 1964, Time Magazine coined the term “Op art”, thirty years after Victor Vasarely began creating in the 1930s. Between 1960 and 1980, the artist pioneered his version of the Alphabet Plastique, which is considered as Vasarely’s greatest contribution to 20th century art. Vasarely died in Paris at the age of 90 on March 15, 1997.

So if you get a chance visit this fantastic centre for Op Art in Aix. It’s just out of the centre of town and very easy to get to by bus or by a short taxi ride from the city centre.

Contact Information:

Foundation Vasarely
1 avenue Marcel Pagnol
13090 Aix-en-Provence


Original Creators: The Father of Op Art Victor Vasarely http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/en_au/blog/original-creators-the-father-of-op-art-victor-vasarely (accessed 1 May 2014)


Tracey M Benson is a lover of travel, having a diverse background as an artist, writer and researcher. Working with online environments since 1994, Tracey's experience includes providing digital media, web and social media solutions to government, non-profit, private industry and tertiary sectors. Her focus is on sustainability behaviour change and the use of communications and emerging technologies to empower community and build culture.

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