La Cauna

The Aurignacian cave

For a long time, caves were considered to be the dwellings of our ancestors. We now know that our ancestors used to live in camps nearby or sought shelter at the entrances of caves. Caves were dark, damp and hard to access making them inhospitable environments.

However, these caves witnessed the emergence of parietal art, in part due to their enclosed nature, which protected the artwork from the elements. This characteristic also allowed some of these ornate caves to survive to this day, sometimes in pristine condition, resembling time capsules or intertemporal galleries.

The 1994 carbon dating of the Chauvet cave dramatically transformed our understanding of prehistoric art. The masterful and lifelike artworks on the cave's walls, combined with the numerous techniques and mediums used to create them, revolutionized our comprehension of the evolution of prehistoric art, previously believed to have followed a long and linear progression.

While the significance of this art is heavily theorized but not perfectly understood due to the lack of written records, it offers us a glimpse into the profound connection humans had with non-human beings during those times.

Non-humans at the forefront

Some human representations are visible in Aurignacian ornate caves, But it is the non-human subjects that truly shine. Some paintings seem to depict scenes witnessed by humans of that era, potentially serving as narrative conduits for future generations and visiting tribes.

During the Upper Paleolithic, humans were not the apex predators they are today. Some experts believe that one reason for the abundant representation of predators and large mammals (lions, rhinoceroses, mammoths…) was to appease them through worship within a ritual framework. On the other hand depictions of prey (deers, ibexes, bison…) might have been a way to ensure safe and plentiful hunting.

The bear stands out in Chauvet serving as a symbolic bridge between humans and non-humans since it was the only large animal known to have ventured inside. Humans and bears rarely crossed paths in the cave, but bears left numerous marks on its walls and may have encouraged humans to do the same. Bears had an eminent place in the cave's artworks, and their skulls were found meticulously arranged in a circular pattern, underscoring the formation of a ritualistic bond.

The mystery of this relationship is even more muddled by some of the artworks featuring anthropomorphic representations, notably the lion-man of Hohlenstein-Stadel or bison-man on the Chauvet cave. This could illustrate the fusional connection that humans had with their environment and its fauna. 

New caves and artworks are continuously being discovered and perhaps one day the enigma surrounding their true meaning will be uncovered.

The artistic space through the ages

It is tempting to look at places like Chauvet as we would a modern museum or gallery: a large interior space with multiple rooms, each displaying artwork featuring different techniques and subjects.

Although the function and context in which parietal art existed are vastly different, I think that there is value in comparing the space of the cave and the modern art space as a means of commentary. Today, spaces reminiscent of ornate caves are becoming increasingly scarce. I would define those through the following characteristics:

A creative and exhibitory space

While some artists install their art within the gallery space, the artwork is often produced elsewhere due to space, financial, or practical constraints. Some artists' run spaces combine studios and exhibition spaces, which require larger surfaces and, therefore, cost to operate.

Commercial vs. ritual value

The artwork in caves had no commercial intent or monetary value. Its value was educational and ritualistic. Although some present-day spaces may operate without charging admission, they typically rely on public or private funding for sustainability. Cave walls cannot be removed from the space, which excludes its artwork from becoming a tradable commodity.

Accessibility and interpretation

The accessibility of cave art is another interesting and debated topic among historians. Its access was physically difficult, and some of the deeper areas are thought to have been reserved for a limited group of individuals for ritualistic reasons. While sometimes conveying meaning on its own, a lot of today’s art relies on texts, mediators, and libraries to convey the context surrounding the artwork and the artist’s intentions. These resources may not always be readily available due to financial or time constraints. Cave art, although seemingly straightforward, likely carried layers of meaning and stories passed down through an oral tradition. We know that humans often visited these caves in groups which may have involved an art mediation process, fostering a tradition handed down through generations.


The temporality of the art is another element featured in ornate caves. The art on the walls is permanent and transgenerational in nature. While some museums have permanent collections, much of today's art is featured on a gallery's walls for a short time for monetary reasons and to open the space for other artists. Once sold, these artworks typically vanish from public view, fading from the global narrative. Statues, sculptures, and architectural artworks may offer a more fitting contemporary comparison, but they are susceptible to environmental and societal forces that can see them destroyed or removed at any time.

Relationship with the non-human

Ornate caves prominently feature the relationship between humans and the non-human world. Today, some artists explore our relationship with the non-human and have even featured non-human contributors. Some rare art spaces focus on nature and the environment, where the ritual aspect is often absent and replaced with necessary social and political commentary."La Cauna" explores the idea of the cave as a ritual space where the practice of art emerged; a space where cultural transmission intertwined with the celebration of the non-human realm.

The collection

Art, much like nature and the non-human realm, is slowly becoming commodified and relegated to the realm of consumption, theft, trade, and auction blocks; these vital elements of our existence are overshadowed and deemed superfluous in the face of aimless growth.

Looking into the cave, we can contemplate the teachings inscribed on its walls by our ancestors and reflect on the point that led us to today’s boring dystopia. Perhaps the answers we seek have been inscribed on these walls since the dawn of our shared history.

The different pieces of the collection incorporate landscapes, features, and artwork from the cave while intended to exist in modern spaces such as homes, public spaces, or galleries. This dichotomy is manifested through a divergence in the shapes, colors, patterns, or subjects of the art presented with each object.

All painted artworks are created using a blend of modern and period-accurate techniques.

Fautuèlh 01

Cadièra 01

Escabèl 01

Escabèl 01 (alt)

Taula 01

Taula 02