August 1, 2021

the Hoffmanns, a dynasty in the service of birds and artists

If the Luma Foundation was born, it is because a man was in love with birds. His name was Hans Lukas (known as Luc) Hoffmann (1923-2016), was an ornithologist, who came from his native Switzerland to settle in the Camargue in 1947 to study his dear birds more closely. He had devoted his doctoral thesis in zoology to the common tern, or sea swallow. His property, the Tour du Valat estate, about thirty kilometers from Arles, is today a research center for conservation. Mediterranean wetlands: it occupies around 2,500 hectares.

He fought his life for the protection of animals: he is one of the co-founders in 1961 of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). His fortune helped him: the Hoffmann family, descendant of the Basel founder of the pharmaceutical laboratories Hoffmann-La Roche, is considered to be one of the two or three richest in Switzerland. It is also an incubator for patrons.

Luc’s mother was named Maja Hoffmann-Stehlin (1896-1989). The people of Basel owe him a few museums. She first married Emanuel Hoffmann, son of the founder of the laboratories. After the death of her husband in a car accident in 1932, she created a foundation in her memory (she made a second dedicated to her second husband, the musician and conductor Paul Sacher). The program was radical: “Collecting works of artists who use novelty, means of expression oriented towards the future, generally misunderstood by their contemporaries. “ Since then, the foundation has irrigated local museums, starting with the Kunstmuseum Basel, one of the oldest public institutions in the world. As the buildings became too small, she encouraged the construction of an annex, devoted to post-war art, the current Kunstmuseum Basel Gegenwart, inaugurated in 1980.

We owe to his daughter Vera Oeri (1924-2003) for having helped to create, in Basel, in 1996, the Museum Tinguely, located almost opposite, on the other bank of the Rhine. One of Maja Hoffmann-Stehlin’s granddaughters, Maja Oeri, created the Laurenz Foundation, named after one of her children who died young, to allow the construction, in the same town, of the Schaulager (“reserve of ‘exhibitions’), a building over 16,000 m2 intended to keep the purchases, always regular since 1933, of the Emanuel-Hoffmann Foundation.

The taste of the Camargue from Arlésienne

Maja Hoffmann, Arlésienne, is his cousin. She is one of Luc’s daughters (he had four children, including Vera Michalski-Hoffmann, who owns, through the Libella group, several publishing houses such as, in France, Buchet-Chastel, Phébus or Delpire) and has kept from his childhood the taste of the Camargue. She thus chairs, in Arles, the board of directors and the artistic council of the Vincent van Gogh Foundation (whose move to a private mansion of the XVe century and its renovation in 2014 had been largely financed by his father), invested in a few hotels and restaurants (including one, organic, Michelin starred since 2009), and decided, in 2010, to install in the old workshops Arles from the SNCF (10 hectares) a set devoted to contemporary art and live performance.

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