At over 2,000m above sea-level, Bodega Colomé in the upper Calchaquí Valley is one of the world’s highest wineries. It’s also home to the world’s only permanent exhibition of the works of the American artist James Turrell, who aims to challenge perceptions with his vibrant light installations. ‘My work is about space and the light that inhabits it. It is about how you can confront that space. It is about your seeing,’ he says.
Turrell’s work, exhibited in 22 countries and 19 US states, is celebrated worldwide; this year marks the 10th anniversary of the museum at Colomé. He is perhaps best known for the work-in-progress Roden Crater, an installation of chambers, tunnels and apertures inside a dormant cinder-cone volcano in northern Arizona. Rapper Kanye West donated $10m to the project after visiting the space, which he described as ‘life-changing’.
The James Turrell Museum was opened by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who owns wineries in California and Argentina, as well as a considerable art collection. He has been buying Turrell’s work for more than 30 years. ‘Donald started to collect him in the 1970s,’ says Christoph Ehrbar, Hess’s son-in-law and CEO of The Hess Group. ‘When he bought Colomé, he thought it would be the perfect place for the collection. There’s a particular light there that gives the work even more intensity and power.’
Despite being four hours from the nearest city, Salta, itself a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires, the museum attracts some 8,000 visitors a year. An overnight stay is highly recommended, not only because of the bone-shaking drive to get there: many of the installations change dramatically as the day wanes and night falls. Rooms at Estancia Colomé, Bodega Colomé’s boutique hotel, can be reserved.