Visit James Turrell’s art installation in Argentina and Uruguay


Just when you thought there couldn’t be a better way to watch the sunset – sipping tannat from a rooftop infinity pool in the idyllic seaside town of Jose Ignacio, Uruguay – a guide tells you it’s time to get into heaven. It leads you to what looks like a domed sepulchre, opens a monumental doorway, and ushers you into the latest immersive installation from an artist whose “life-changing” work celebrities everywhere can’t resist. to throw money at him. And after what you see in this room, you too could join the cult of James Turrell.

Jose Ignacio online

Over the next half hour, you look up at the sky through a circular cutout in the domed roof. Around the skylight, the ceiling slowly changes color, tricking your eye into thinking the sky is tangerine as the ceiling lights up purple, or the sky is ethereal green as the dome lights up pink.

Even if you haven’t been able to get hold of some of the legal weed from Uruguay, you’re definitely tripping up a bit. You might even feel like you’re in the “Hotline Bling” video – Drake is also a Turrell stan.

Bodega Colome

The celestial space of Ta Khut is one of dozens of mind-bending meditation chambers that Turrell has scattered around the world. Another is in neighboring Argentina, in a remote location not unlike the Arizona desert, where for nearly 50 years Turrell has been working on his magnum opus, Roden Crater, a vast series of interconnected observatories built in an extinct volcano. Turrell’s two South American skyspaces are part of swanky posada hotels, which means visiting them is a uniquely transporting experience, even if you don’t book a room.

If all of this sounds like it should be at the top of your artistic travel bucket list, well, baby, you’ve seen the light.

Jose Ignacio online

Head to Uruguay to experience the only autonomous skyspace in South America…

Ta Khut opened in 2021 on the grounds of Posada Ayana, a collection of chic modernist suites by Jose Ignacio, sometimes referred to as “the Hamptons of South America.” With a dome inspired by the stupas at the top of Tibetan shrines, it is the ideal place to achieve a moment of Zen. Indoor photos are strictly prohibited, so don’t even think about doing it for the gram. Instead, lean against the smooth Brazilian marble walls, be lulled by the chirping of crickets in the “sky garden” dotted with 15,000 native plants, and try not to feel abducted by a UFO.

Photo courtesy of Posada Ayana

Getting there and entering: Jose Igancio is a 40-minute drive or bus ride along the coast from Punta del Este, the high-rise resort town about 2.5 hours from Uruguay’s enchanting and underrated capital, Montevideo. Skyspace sessions ($40 for non-Uruguayans) are offered while the hotel is open, from November to April. Be sure to book well in advance via the website or by writing to [email protected] Hotel guests can visit for free at their leisure and have access to early morning sunrise sessions, so they can tap into their theta brain waves before hitting some real waves.

What else to do: Jose Ignacio is full of stylish dining spots where you can sample one of Uruguay’s famous grilled steaks, but its real charm lies in its chiringuitos, beach shacks serving cheap caipirinhas or Fernet and Cokes for the Brazilians and Argentines who flock here.

Bodega Colome

…Or take a hike in Argentina for the only James Turrell museum in the world

From an art island in Japan to a shining stone cylinder in the Swiss Alps, Turrell’s pilgrims are known to travel to the ends of the earth. This undoubtedly describes the mountainous desert near the Argentinian-Bolivian border, where you will find the only museum dedicated to the master of light. Visitors are treated to a sample of his work spanning his entire career, from wall-mounted holograms to immersive light baths that make you feel like you’re at the pearly gates. Before all that, you will have a sample of local wines which are also quite divine. The museum shares a property with Bodega Colomé, home to some of the oldest continuously producing wineries in Argentina.

Swiss-born art collector Donald Hess, founder of the winery’s current incarnation, built the Turrell Museum against the odds that would have frightened Fitzcarraldo. The whole thing is powered by generators, so tours are limited to one one-hour guided tour per day. Many locals come here just to taste some of the highest wines in the world and don’t even realize the skyspace session is part of the package, so don’t be surprised when they unknowingly hide out early and you have it all to yourself .

Bodega Colome

Getting there and entering: Most people on this trip travel to the Andean city of Salta and rent a car, preferably an SUV, to experience some of Argentina’s most scenic mountain roads. The direct route from Salta to Colomé winds through landscapes reminiscent of Death Valley and takes about five hours. The even more scenic route is to drive south to the vineyards of Cafayate via Route 68 and then back north to Colomé via Route 40. Google Maps will tell you it takes around 6.5 hours , but selfie junkies be warned: once you reach the Quebrada de las Conchas National Park, you’ll stop every five minutes to snap photos of otherworldly rock formations. At Bodega Colomé you can book a simple tasting and tour, but staying at Estancia Colomé means lounging by the pool all day and star gazing at night.

What else to do: Plan to spend a night in Salta listening to folk songs and dancing at one of the coasting peña parties. Locals know to line up outside La Casona del Molino long before it opens to have any chance of being seated for dinner. Break up the drive from Salta by spending the night in the dusty border town of Cafayate and exploring local vineyards like the majestic El Esteco. One of the best lodges, Killa, takes its name from an indigenous word meaning “moon”. Thank you later for stargazing here.

Jose Ignacio online

…or do both

If you’re determined to see 101 skyspaces before you die, the hit here is to take the three-hour high-speed catamaran from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires, the low-cost company JetSmart offers cheap flights to Salta; from Montevideo, COT offers buses to Jose Igancio. And remember the golden rule of a Turrell trip: Travel light!

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Daniel Maurer is a contributor for Thrillist.


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