In Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, contemporary art is king. From the Riviera to Arles, a handful of remarkable museums and foundations showcase works by the great names of modern and contemporary art.
Meet Up with Maeght and Picasso
On the Riviera
This is the story of someone who was into everything, a true devotee. An art dealer who was fascinated by the great artists of his time, Aimé Maeght and his wife Marguerite inaugurated the Fondation Maeght in 1964 in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, near Nice. With its visionary architecture, this place is home to one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings by Georges Braque, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall. Although a peer of Aimé Maeght who was established on the Côte d’Azur at the time the foundation was founded, Picasso steered his own course. His ceramics can be seen today at the Musée Picasso de Vallauris, his drawings and paintings at the Musée Picasso d’Antibes. Finish off with a trip to the Mamac in Nice, to explore the works of Yves Klein and Niki de Saint-Phalle.
Journey to the Fondation Carmignac
At the Île de Porquerolles
To visit the Fondation Carmignac is to go on a voyage. A journey on the water, then into the heart of a luxuriant nature, since the foundation is located on the Île de Porquerolles, off Hyères in the Parc National de Port-Cros. “Like in any myth or maiden voyage, crossing to the island is always a double movement, one physical, the other mental. It’s about crossing to the other side,” its director, Charles Carmignac, explains quite aptly. It’s also a journey to explore works of virtuosos of contemporary art, including Grüner Strich and Roy Lichtenstein. And an internal voyage, for the visit takes place in bare feet after tasting a plant-based drink. Back on dry land, visit the Villa Noailles in Hyères, an internationally renowned art centre and one of the first modern-style buildings constructed in France.
Behold the best of Contemporary Art
In Marseille, contemporary art can be found both at the Mucem, artistic crossroads of Mediterranean civilisations, as well as at the Musée Cantini, where 20th century works produced from 1900 to 1960 are on display. Among them, you’ll see paintings connected to fauvism (Andre Derain, Émile Othon, etc.) and to cubism (Raoul Dufy, Albert Gleizes.) Some of the pieces originally displayed at the Musée Cantini are now at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Marseille (the “MAC”). These are mainly the works of the Nouveaux Réalistes. In a joint declaration published in 1960, they staked their claim to work with new materials (posters, objects of the consumer society, new materials etc.). To complete the picture, head to the FRAC Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, whose aim is to put together public collections and support artistic creation.
Escape to Andy Goldsworthy’s “Refuge d’Art”
Designed by British artist Andy Goldsworthy, the “Refuge d’Art” is an open-air exhibition. Leaving from the Musée Gassendi in Digne-les-Bains and all around the town, Goldsworthy has imagined a 150-kilometre hike punctuated with works inspired by the rural heritage. The trail, which takes 8 to 10 days, runs through an exceptional natural setting: the Réserve Geologique de Haute-Provence.
Visit Vasarely, Giacometti and Artistic Vines
Inaugurated in 1976, the Fondation Vasarély in Aix-en-Provence, a fascinating building conceived by Victor Vasarely, the father of op-art, is gradually being reborn from its ashes. After a time of crisis which almost led to its disappearance, this “Architectonic Centre” where art, architecture and town planning meet, has returned to the contemporary art scene. Here, you can see the avant-garde work of its founder, who promoted a popular and universal art. Still in Aix, the Musée Granet is home to works of the 20th-century European masters of modern art, including Giacometti, Fernand Léger and Nicolas de Staël. Finally, for an experience that beautifully combines wine and contemporary art, head to the Château La Coste estate, at Le Puy Sainte-Réparade
Check Out Basquiat and Graphic Arts
It’s at the Hotel de Caumont, headquarters of the Collection Lambert, that the nerve centre of contemporary art in Avignon can be found. On display you’ll find pieces collected by the Parisian gallery-owner Yvon Lambert since the 1960s. Among them, works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pierre Bismuth, Barbara Kruger and Shimabuku. To the south of Avignon, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the Musée Estrine took up its quarters in a historic mansion. Dedicated to 20th– and 21st-century graphic arts, it is run by a voluntary association, “Présence Van Gogh.” This group has taken on the task of respecting the wish of the Dutch painter, who lived in Saint-Rémy in 1888-1889, “that living painters be no longer so unjustly neglected.”
See Van Gogh and the Fondation Luma
The Fondation Luma in Arles was born from the will of the patron and collector, Maja Hoffmann to support bold, artistic projects related to the environment, human rights and culture. New for 2019 : the opening of the spiraling tower designed by architect Franck Gehry and inspired by the most famous wielder of a brush in Arles : Vincent Van Gogh. Followers of the Dutch master can, moreover, admire his works at the nearby Fondation Vincent Van Gogh. Inaugurated in 2014, it has taken on the task of exploring the impact of the painter’s work on current art.