Marc Chagall

Museum of Marc Chagall is a gem of French Riviera. It is one of the best and intimate museums I have ever been to. This museum is the first museum that was dedicated to a living artist, it was opened in 1973 at the bottom of the Cimiez hill in Nice. This museums is unique because artist was curating it himself. So he could display everything exactly how he wanted and he fully realised his artistic potential.

The museum building was executed by Marc’s friend – Andre Malraux and was designed as a house. This is why the museum is rather small yet you can spend hours there. It is full of natural light which compliments the paintings. Marc Chagall was a music lover so he commissioned the auditorium which was build very quickly upon request. This hall has great acoustic and every year it opens to the public so they can enjoy musical concerts. Chagall decorated this auditorium with stained glass wall specially designed for the space.

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Marc Chagall lived across two centuries for almost 100 years, he was born in Liozna, Russian Empire  (present day Belarus) in 1887 and died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France in 1985. Chagall was a multicultural artist: he was born Russian, died French and almost became American somewhen on the middle of his life. Chagall was born in a Jewish family and attended in a Jewish elementary school. At the age of 19 he enrolled into all-Jewish art school where he started his formal art education. After several months he moved to St Petersburg to study at Imperial Society for the Protection of Fine Arts.

Even though Realism was widely popular at that time Chagall developed his own dreamy-like style using bright colours and fairy-tail like shapes. Marc Chagall evolved into a multimedia artist, largely known for his oil paintings. He understood colour like no one else and it is absolute pleasure to look at his artworks. Apart from paintings he was widely successful in making stained glass windows. Although the technique is completely different, the colours of the glass are as bright and vivid as in his paintings. His stained glass windows can be seen across the globe, in the UK, in Germany, in Switzerland, in France, even in UN building.

His artworks are so special because they combine magnificent painting manner with touching subject matter. His art reflected his thoughts and sufferings. As a Jew he experiences persecution firsthand and it reflected on his paintings. They are extremely moving and personal. You can almost cry by looking at them.. I saw people crying in the museum standing in front of the paintings.

This museum experience was very intimate and personal. Each painting is a story and you stand there in front of it and unravel it layer by layer. His artworks are brilliant on so many levels – emotionally, visually and compositionally.

The heart of the museum is a room with only five paintings displayed in panoramic manner and they were placed by Chagall himself. The paintings are from the “The Song of Songs” series. It is an interpretation of book from the Hebrew Bible that celebrates love and sexual desire between a man and a woman. In this series Chagall illustrates the three motifs of the Song of Songs: the musical, sacred and sensual. The choice of red-pink pallet represents deep sweet love but also blood highlighting the violence in Biblical story. There is a bench where you can seat and spend some time tête–à–tête with these paintings. In this room no one talks, it is awfully quiet, everyone is absorbed by the artworks.

This is an incredible museum, full of intimacy and personality. Chagall’s art is full of colours and worry at the same time. It somehow appeals to everyone and viewers relate to it. If you are traveling in Nice do not miss it!

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!