Taking over public spaces, celebrating all forms of contemporary art, experiencing the special atmosphere of the city at night. This is the motivation behind one of the most-loved cultural events in Europe and one which is destined to cross the Pond before not too long. The White Night, according to the Charter of Intent drawn up in 2006 by five European capitals (Paris, Rome, Brussels, Madrid and Riga) who had joined together to come up with projects of mutual interest, “is a cultural event, open to all with no admission charge, held each year between the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn and lasting one whole night.“

The first official Nuit Blanche was organised in the French capital in 2002 and has been repeated every year since then on the night between Saturday and Sunday in the first week of October. The mayor at the time, Bertrand Delanoë, together with the Minister for Culture, Christophe Girard, commissioned Jean Blaise to organise the event. Founder of the “Centre de Recherche pour le Developpement Culturel” (Research Centre for Cultural Development), Blaise had already put forward the idea of an all-night arts festival in his election manifesto when running for mayor of Nice. Now he was given the chance to realise this ambitious project, winning over Paris with bright installations that were to become the stand-out feature of the event. It was such a success that the following year other cities, including Rome, organised similar events. The first White Night was held in Rome between 27 and 28 September 2003 and was a huge success, despite the fact it coincided with the worst power blackout ever experienced in Italy, which left the whole city (and the peninsula) in darkness and threw thousands of people into chaos. Since then, the number of White Nights, or similar events, has grown and they are now held in other cities throughout Italy at different times of the year. Even small towns and villages organise them, obviously on a smaller scale and with the cultural resources available. In much the same way as the “Music Festival”, one of the key events of the Estate Romana (Roman Summer) which was originally held in France as the “Fête de la Musique” in 1982 has caught on, the French cultural initiative has become a model, a source of fascination and influence. It consolidated the twinning of Paris and Rome, which dates back to 30 January 1956 and was sealed with the motto “Only Paris is worthy of Rome, only Rome is worthy of Paris”.

The name, or maybe we should say the colour, attributed to the event comes from an expression used in the Middle Ages, when, on the eve of their investiture, aspiring knights dressed in white and spent the night praying in a chapel to purify their souls and be worthy of receiving the sword. This led to the expression “white night”, which means staying up all night without sleeping.
“White nights” are also a natural phenomenon in Northern Europe where, around the summer solstice and in areas of high latitude, the sun sets just a couple of degrees below the horizon so there is always twilight. Saint Petersburg is the only place in the world where this phenomenon occurs every summer, bathing the city in a magical, daydreamy atmosphere. It was here, in Saint Petersburg, that events were devised to accommodate this “mix-up” between night and day, with night-time openings and more unusual events. Before Paris, Berlin was the first city in Europe to open the doors of its museums to visitors in the evening and at night. Since it was first launched in February 1997, the “Lange Nacht der Museen” (Long Night of Museums) has grown in popularity and led to similar events throughout Germany and the world. The “White Night” in Paris, however, is the first time an event has not only promoted art and culture at their usual venues, albeit at different times, but has also invaded every corner of the city with open-air installations and original performances, recording an annual attendance of about a million visitors. This year, the record-breaking French event will be under the artistic direction of Charlotte Laubard, the young art historian and head of the Department of Visual Arts at HEAD (Haute École d’Art et de Design) in Geneva. The theme of this, the sixteenth edition, is “Faire Oeuvre Commune” (Collective Creation) and its aim is to celebrate collective creation at a time of identity crisis, whether they be collaborations between artists, interdisciplinary research groups or local events.

“We live in a time of self-absorption, so I thought it would be interesting to go back to the public sphere, the sphere of social interactions”, explained the event’s artistic director. The collectives Mu and (La)horde will be creating installations in the northern district of Paris which focus on the themes of the railway and transit. Invisible Playground from Berlin, a collective group of artists, designers and photographers, instead, will build a structure along the banks of the Seine which will call into question the function of culture as a game. The choreographer Olivier Dubois has been given “carte blanche” to stage an unprecedented performance under the Canopée des Halles featuring three hundred amateur dancers who have been recruited throughout the city thanks to a public appeal and who will re-enact some of the most famous dance scenes in the history of the cinema. The genuine Nuit Blanche will be held in Paris on 7 October.
Cover. Nuit Blanche, 2017
1. Nuit Blanche – Le Baiser Julien Nonnon
2. Pierre Delavie Love- Overflows Conciergerie Paris.
Simulationof the project for Paris Nuit Blanche, 2016.
Courtesy of the artist Pierre Delavie
3. Nuit Blanche, 2016
4. Affiche Nuit Blanche, 2016 Fabrice Hyber
5. Nuit Blanche, 2016
6. Alain fleischer, 2016
7. Nuit Blanche, 2016
8. Cedric Verdure, 2015
9-10. Erwin Olaf @Nuit Blanche, 2016
11. Nuit Blanche, 2015
12. Charlotte Laubard
13. Nele Azevedo, 2015
14. Nuit Blanche, 2013