Lonely Planet Writer

A modern makeover of the historic Carcassonne fortress leaves locals unhappy

The Unesco World Heritage Site and fortified city of Carcassonne in the south of France has received an artistic makeover and locals are not too happy. Large yellow circles have donned the walls of the famous fortress known as Cité de Carcassonne that were designed by contemporary Swiss artist Felice Varini. The artist, famed for his eye-catching creations, was commissioned to design a piece that would celebrate 20 years of its Unesco status.

The walls are partly covered with yellow concentric circles created by the Paris-based, Swiss artist Felice Varini. Image by ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

Dubbed “eccentric, concentric circles,” the work features 15 thin, painted aluminium sheets that form rings depending on how you view them as you walk through the historic site. However, not all residents are content with this new look. “It’s ignoble. And it’s expensive. Already we do not have the budgets to maintain or repair the citadel,” a shopkeeper told Le Parisien.

Not everyone is happy with the artistic installation. Image by ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

A petition has also been set up by those who object to the artistic creation. Addressed to Gérard Larrat, Mayor of Carcassonne, the letter outlines the anger of locals stating that they did not have their say in the overall idea. They have received almost 2000 signatures to date. “A “magnificent” work of contemporary art has just appeared on a magnificent historical monument, masterpiece of another time, fashioned for centuries” the petitioners write. “It is very clear to me, and I think for many others, that these circles have nothing artistic (because for me, a work of art must be worked, thoughtful, precise, something that out of the ordinary, sometimes close to perfection) only disfigure the one and only work of this photo. What will think tourists who will come to see the city of Carcassonne for the first and last time? What image will they have, if not that of a fluorescent yellow vest (you know, the ones we put in the car!)”

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This is how the site usually looks – it’s set to revert back in September. Image by Nadia Isakova/LOOP IMAGES/GettyImages

Inaugurated on 4 May, the art installation is set to be visible from now until September 2018 and is free to view. France’s Centre of National Monuments (CMN), which commissioned the work, has not revealed the cost of the artwork. Carcassonne’s medieval fortress was restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853. The city sees approximately three million visitors a year.