French Riviera

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

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.

Cannes

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.

 

Art in Monaco

Monte-Carlo

Monaco is luxury. Do not get me started on yachts, sports cars, restaurants, clubs and bars.. It is also very pleasant to walk and enjoy picturesque views. Monte-Carlo is very clean and beautiful: plenty of green spaces, promenades and beautiful buildings. Since this is an Art blog rather than Travel Blog, I would focus on the public art that I came across in Monte-Carlo while travelling.

Public Art is very diverse. You can find artworks in variety of colours, materials, sizes and from different time periods. Monte Carlo combines historic and contemporary glass-based buildings and it looks organic.

Monte Carlo casino is the main landmark of Monaco and its most recognised and iconic buildings. It is THE casino featured in Bond’s movies, Ocean’s Twelve and even animated movies Cars 2 and Madagascar 3! The building is a masterpiece itself but I was captured by steel sculpture in front of it. This is “Mirror Sky” by British artist Anish Kapoor. His style is quite recognisable and he has created many sculptures for public display, including huge sculpture for Olympic Games in London a few years ago. This 2.5 meter piece reflects the image upside down to the viewer. To my taste, such contemporary polished steel peice  looks stunning with a 19th century building on the background.

There are some artworks that are very specific to Monaco and highlight Monegasque culture. For example there is a bronze Race car sculpture to celebrate Formula 1 track which spreads across Monaco.

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Along the back of Grimaldi Forum there is a sculpture path from Footballers footprints, which is called “The Champions Promenade”. Each sculpture is a bronze panel with name, date, footprints and signature on it of an exceptional football player. In fact, it is a prize and only once winner is selected each year and his footprints get added to the promenade.

 

Even a sign board is decorated with beautifully carved bronze frame!

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Monaco is very artistically rich. Although the country is tiny, only 2.02 square kilometres, it has a huge variety of museums and galleries. They even have Stamp and Coins museum! Art Market is also busy in Monaco, there are some annual art fairs, like European Art Fair, which passed in July and an upcoming art fair Art Monaco in October.

Francis Bacon

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The Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, has composed a solo exhibition of Francis Bacon. Thematically there are two major topics in the exhibition – one is relation of Francis’s wont to other artists such as Picasso, Giacometti, Léger, Lurçat, Michaux, Soutine, Toulouse-Lautrec and others and second one paintings inspired by Monaco and French Riviera. The exhibition is on until 4th of September, so you still have a chance to see it.

This exhibition was warmly welcomed by critics and the job of curator Martin Harrison was highly recognised. I was expecting so much from my visit and I have to say, I was disappointed. To my surprise I admired the artworks and rediscover Francis Bacon as an artist but from my point of view presentation did not do justice.

First things first – the space was dark. It was obviously curatorial idea, but it did not work. Narrow projected light in a dark room works great with jewellery as precious stones ‘play’ under the light. In this case, bright colours were lost because of the poor lighting. Some rooms were entirely dark and light was concentrated only on the painting. Primarily the exhibition is about artworks and finding the most interning way to display them.

Painting descriptions on the walls were barely visible, you have to try hard to be able to read the card. Descriptive passages on the wall were written against dark grey walls and it made it impossible to comfortably read it.

However, the artworks were incredible. Throughout the exhibition you can see how Bacon’s style evolves. In his early years  he was associated with many artists, especially with Picasso, as Francis was finding his own voice, he was inspired by other artists, however, in his later years he developed his distinctive independent technique.

In his late years Francis painted a lot of portraits especially diptychs and triptychs, you can see many sets gathered in the exhibition, some of them came from museums and majority came from private collections.

The exhibition was not crowded and photography is allowed, which is rare for temporary exhibitions. I can share my thoughts, for those who are interested why photography is mostly prohibited. As majority of works are loaned from private hands, collectors usually do not want their works to be photographed so they agree a loan on specific terms. Even if one artwork from the whole exhibition can not be photographed, the museum will not tolerate any photography.

Towards the end of the exhibition there was a room – imitation of Francis Bacon’s studio. The idea was great but execution not so much. It should have been closed space rather than only walls and it should have had more large scale prints with original photos integrated. Wooden floor covered with paint would have created a great atmosphere.. I think that full recreation would be more suitable and spectacular rather than 4 photos and 2 wallpapers. Do it good or do not do it at all.

The final part of the exhibition was interactive screen, you can take a photo in photo booth and the place it on the wall, it was very entertaining and fun to do. You can either take a picture or upload from your phone and then you can apply different filters resembling Francis Bacon’s photographs.

Gift shop was very advanced, there was a photo booth, where you can take picture and then print it on the t-shirt, iPhone case or just have it printed in mini series.

Some people from our group really enjoyed it, it is surely worth visiting!

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest Medieval towns in South of France. It is absolutely charming with narrow streets and breathtaking views. It spreads on top of the hill and surrounded by a wall. The whole region is a bit more than 7 squared kilometres and the village itself is even smaller. We completed full circle in less than an hour..

I have not even tried to go into any art galleries because there are just so many of them. However I took some pictures of the entrances for you to have an idea. Some galleries occupy ground floor, but some have historic stairs leading to lower ground floor. It looks very charming and inviting.

Marc Chagall, who lived in Saint Paul for 20 years, is buried on the local cemetery and people leave small stones in circle on his grave.

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Many restaurants and hotels have incredible art piece hanging on the wall, like Chagall, Picasso, Matisse. Saint Paul de Vence is also called city of artist. In 20th century this small village was the destination for painters, filmmakers and writers.

You can discover many artistic elements while walking in the town, many doors and gates have interesting pattern, some houses are decorated I even saw painted letterbox. Street signs are also artistic and written in a cheeky font, it adds to artistic atmosphere of the village.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate

The exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe, famous American female artist of the 20th century, is held in Tate Modern in London until 30 October. Georgia is famous for painting flowers, Mexican landscapes and skulls.

Personally, I found it very calm and soothing, walking through rooms with Georgia’s paintings, mostly because of the pallets she used. Sky blues, baby pinks, light green – pastel colours that work very good for the eye. Using these colours for flower paintings is the obvious choice, what surprised me was that she used the same colour for skulls.

Georgia painted a lot of flowers in a details so people can really see it. On the walls there were some quotes from the artist herself and she said –

Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

From curatorial point of view there is nothing special about settings, there is a logical order of 11 rooms dedicated to different periods or themes. Apart from paintings there are sketchbooks with watercolours, showing the preliminary paintings.

The World Through Women’s Eyes

In the very heart of Moscow one of the main boulevards – Tverskoi Boulevard is used as exhibition space. Every quarter or so the exhibition changes. This time it was an exhibition of contemporary photography – The World Through Women’s Eyes. All photographers showcased are women. It is rare, let’s be honest, considering that majority of photographers are men; but this is a step forward. 

There is a verity of themes: family, nature, architecture even cars. Each section out of ten consisted of 7 photographs by one artist. It is a shame that some descriptions were limited and did not give any background on a photographer. 

I liked some works, however, some did not look so professional to me. It looked like someone abused Instagram filters… 

The exhibition is placed in open air and absolutely free. It allows everyone who is passing by to stop for a minute and admire contemporary photographs. It is a good way to spread beauty and educate people.

Street Art in Moscow – level up

I love Street Art!

Street Art in Moscow is taken to a whole different level. It might be a debate in some countries if it is legal or not but in Moscow authorities have taken this matter in their own hands. Street Art in Moscow is created with cultural and educational purpose.

Aeroflot, the most successful Russian airline and a member of Skyteam Alliance, carried out a series of large scale artworks. Graffiti shows beautiful portraits of flight attendants with elements of famous Russian cities such as Kazan, Kaliningrad, St Petersburg and others. The images are beautiful, colourful and pleasant to look at but they also promote a number of cultures across Russia and promote tourism. Sure thing it is a marketing tool for the airline but it makes streets look better and more enjoyable place to walk.

Another thing that caught my eye was a development with tall buildings with animal paintings on the side – zebra, elephant and giraffe. Apparently it was there for 3 years already but I never saw it. It is very impressive – twenty-something-storey paintings especially when they are beautifully executed. It was idea of a construction company responsible for the project. But its not only to decorate streets but also to educate, each animal has a short description written on the eye level as well as a small map of natural habitat for these wild creatures.

There are also many ongoing competitions for best graffiti among young artists as the government is promoting culture and talents through creating a challenge for artist to create a themed graffiti, some are devoted to historic figures, some to going to space. It is lovely to see how the city is changing  and getting more and more colourful but it is also good to realise that pretty pictures have meaning. These collaboration of street artists and municipal authorities is a brilliant way to enhance creativity and decorate a city. Well done!

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Way into the mountains in France

I love travelling through small towns and villages that are not out there in the open but hidden from everybody. I have recently been in a small town called Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert which is home to less than 300 people. It is not far from Lodeve and Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

There are many shops with local handcrafted items such as staffed toys, clothes, jewellery and a lot of wine of course. One of many shops is a gallery of contemporary art with paintings by Armelle Bastide d’Izard. She is a french artist with a local media exposure and a list of exhibitions. Her exhibitions were mostly local but Armelle also exhibited in large cities such as Montpellier and art capital of France – in Paris.

Her artworks are bright and colourful, full of life. Some paintings are figurative, depicting surroundings – street views, landscapes, and some are abstract. The weather was nice during our visit and sun filled the room, which made the paint even more vibrant. The artist was there herself and I assumed that she worked on the top floor as some works were shown in the process as in the artist studio.

Century Vogue

National Portrait Gallery has many beautiful exhibitions this spring and one of them is a must for fashion lovers – Vogue 100: a century of style. It celebrates a birthday for an iconic British magazine and fashion bible. The exhibition is on from 11th of February until 22nd of May, so those who are in style still have plenty of time to visit it multiple times!

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The exhibition is dedicated to a long history Vogue gathering a wide range of photographs commissioned by the magazine. The retrospective is organised by decades: visitors start from the most recent room 2010s and then go backwards to 2000s and all the way to 1910s. It is nice to see it in reverse and follow how fashion was developing.

Every decade is different and you can see how trends changed in clothes, hair, make up. Some decades signify the revolution of women role in society, some address political issues in society and all this is done in a beautiful fashion manner.

Each room is full of A-list celebrities portraits by top photographers from different industries: fashion models, actors and artists. Exhibition also features 100 magazine covers and short films of how photoshoots were taken.

It is also fascinating to observe how people are dressed, it is no wonder they say that Vogue is the most iconic fashion magazine – it attracts stylish visitors.

Young Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

 

Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman in Blue Reading a Letter

c. 1662 – 1665
Oil on canvas
46.5 x 39 cm. (18 1/4 x 15 3/8 in.)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The subject of the painting is a woman who is reading a letter in front of the window. It is not determined who is the letter from. She appears to be pregnant, however, it is not necessary the case, because the fashion of the day was to wear loose dresses. There is a map of the Netherlands on the wall which can indicate that she is reading a letter from a travelling husband.

 

This painting is composed on geometric figures and all objects on the picture are related. There are horizontal and vertical lines that divide the space and creating three-dimensional effect. On the wall there is linen, which appears to be “real” because of the shadow underneath, which shows us that there is a space between the linen and the wall. The same technique is used with other objects on the canvas. Shadows in this picture emphasize the space between objects and make it more realistic. Moreover we can see that there are several layouts. Difference between foreground and background also work to create space in the frame.