French love their public spaces, large squares, promenades, wide streets, cities are designed for long walks and time outdoors. No matter how large or small cities are they all have stunning art decorating public spaces. Art is in form of installations, sculptures, fountains and elements of architecture. You can find both: contemporary and historic art pieces, so you can find something for every taste.
French Riviera was a popular destination for many artists in 19th and 20th centuries. Seascapes and landscapes are very inspiring and many artist captured them in their works. You can see art everywhere – in museums, in public spaces and even in hotel lobbies. Some hotels have great art collections and their lobbies look like museum halls.
South of France is different from the North, it has much more colours. Buildings are painted in warm pastel colours with contrast window-blinds. Climate is amazing and sun makes everything shine.
In this post I will share photos and thoughts on public art in different cities of French Rivera. Throughput French Riviera architecture is pretty similar and there are some similar art pieces. However each city has its own identity and style.
Nice is the biggest city in south of France, it has historic centre and modern parts, it has many parks and a promenade alongside the beach. The Massena square is famous for contemporary art pieces – seven luminous human sculptures on poles. This installation was created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and is called “Conversation in Nice”. Seven figures represent all the continents and how people are communicating and living with each other. Unfortunately I only have day photos but at night these sculptures light up with different bright colours. There are many opinions about these sculptures but they are so integrated in the landscape that it is impossible to imagine Nice without them!
There are many large scale sculptures in Nice, there are very conceptual and surprisingly big. There are less colourful and cutting-edge contemporary sculptures in Nice, or I just have not come across them much.
Airport Nice Cote D’Azure deserves a special mention, there are some interesting artworks inside the airport.. So that is the first thing you see when you arrive or it is the last chance to admire french art before you go.
Main promenade along the coast is a perfect place for evening walks: Ferris wheel, ice cream tracks, sweet stands and small stands with souvenirs. There is a square with plenty of improvised art booths by local artists and it looks like an open air art gallery. Diversity of style as and techniques is amazing! I am very picky about abstract art but some of the artworks really caught my eye. Even if you are not shopping for art, it very entertaining to wonder from stand to stand and admire different textures, views and styles. You can also talk to the artists because usually they are presenting everything themselves and occasionally paint or sculpt on the spot.
For those of you with sweet tooth, french artist Laurence Jenkell strewed French coast with giant candies. These sculptures are crafted in different sizes and from different materials like plexiglass and marble. Candies spread all the way from Monaco to St Tropez, you can see it out in the street or in hotel lobbies, there is one sculpture with French and EU flags as candies wrappings is displayed in Nice airport.
Public Art is not everything that south of France has to offer. French Riviera is filled with art museums. Chagall’s museum and Matisse’s villa museum in Nice, Picasso museum in Antibes, latest Renoir’s home in Cagnes-sur-Mer, national museum of Fernand Leger in Biot and many more. You can easily spend days exploring art.. Cote D’Azur is a magical place with fantastic views, so many artist are still coming there searching for inspiration.