CAIRN art centre

CAIRN art centre

The CAIRN was created in 2000 on the initiative of the Gassendi Museum and in collaboration with the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence.

If the word cairn refers to the piles of stones that walkers find on the trails to signal the direction to take or to warn of the presence of danger, it is also the founding acronym of : Informal Art Center for Nature Research.

The CAIRN art centrer is a space for experimentation around an issue at the heart of today’s debates, concerns and mobilizations: nature.

For 20 years, CAIRN has been inviting artists who question our relationship with nature and who propose a renewed approach: Mark Dion, Delphine Gigoux-Martine, herman de vries, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Nonas, Till Roeskens…

The art center is being developed on both a small and large scale: a temporary exhibition room, a route punctuated by sculptures in the heart of the Saint-Benoît Park and a collection of perennial works on the territory of the UNESCO Geopark of Haute-Provence (more than 200,000 hectares).

In an interdisciplinary approach that links art to nature and the specificities of the territory, CAIRN aims to assert itself as an artistic laboratory that produces and disseminates contemporary creation in rural areas.

The works that are located in nature as well as those that occupy the temporary exhibition space are often an invitation to walk and roam in the mountains. Conceived in relation to the context, scattered near villages or along mountain paths, they invite visitors to discover the landscapes they pass through in a different way and accompany them in the discovery of natural sites, history and local traditions.

The CAIRN art center welcomes artists on invitation, for the production of works and exhibitions, and on call for applications, for a research residency.

From spring to autumn, the CAIRN art center offers mediation activities (exhibition visits, school visits, workshops, etc.) and one-off events (vernissage, conferences, meetings with artists, etc.).

The CAIRN art center is part of BOTOX(S), the contemporary art network of the Alps and Riviera, of d.c.a / French association for the development of contemporary art centers and of the ELAN network (European Land Art Network) and it benefits from the financial support of the Ministry of Culture/DRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region and the city of Digne-les-Bains.



CAIRN art center at the entrance of the Saint-Benoît park © François-Xavier Emery


Georges Autard’s work in the heart of Parc Saint-Benoît : following his exhibition at the CAIRN art center in 2018, the artist wanted to integrate these fabric columns floating at ground level into the park. Like prayer wheels, they turn thanks to the wind and live in contact with the trees and the sky. Their deterioration is part of the process at work…


at my feet, herman de vries, exhibition at CAIRN art center, 2015


















Focused on contemporary art, the CAIRN art center is part of the museum department of the City of Digne-les-Bains, a museum pole composed of two other departments :

Musée Gassendi /// Art & science
This Museum of France was founded in 1889 in a historic building in the city center. Like a cabinet of curiosities, the cohabitation of fine arts and science collections is enriched by the presence of contemporary artworks both inside the rooms and over a vast territory thanks to in situ artistic commissions, produced in partnership with the CAIRN art center.

Alexandra David Néel’s House /// Art asiatique & Maison d’écrivain
Alexandra David-Neel spent 25 years of her life in Asia, and she was the first European woman to travel to Lhasa, Tibet. But her travels did not only make her an explorer: they also nurtured a dense literary body of work.
Born near Paris, she died in Digne-les-Bains in 1969, bequeathing all her possessions to the city. The Alexandra David-Neel’s House offers visitors the opportunity to visit the writer’s villa, her garden and the museum, which retraces her career, her commitments and her travels.