© Expo Pistoletto Troisième Paradis Actes sud Méjan 2014 | L.ROUX

Contemporary Art in Historic Venues

Churches, chapels, strongholds, castles, mansions and villas … In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, modern and contemporary art mingles with historic settings to offer an alluring blend of past and present, promising inspired, stirring and resolutely-novel art & heritage adventures.

Art & Religious Monuments

Centre d’Art Contemporain Les Capucins & Musée de Salagon

Located in Embrun, the Centre d’Art Contemporain Les Capucins has set up home inside a church rehabilitated in 2011. This ancient building has now been converted into a fluid space with magnificent volumes, welcoming four visual arts exhibitions every year by current artists. While you’re visiting the centre, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a stroll around the historic quarter of Embrun or along the shores of Serre-Ponçon lake. Another church converted into a contemporary arts venue awaits you in Mane, at the heart of the Haute-Provence area: the Musée de Salagon. This Romanesque-style building exhibits works paying tribute to the beautiful ethnobotanical gardens that grace the site.

Fondation Carzou & Le Méjan

The Fondation Carzou in Manosque was a convent until 1991, when it was first adorned with a monumental fresco courtesy of Jean Carzou. The neoclassical-style building, a listed monument, now houses Carzou’s “Apocalypse”, depicting themes dear to this artist inspired by the surrealist movement: human activity destroying the planet, ruins and tree women… His oeuvre is marked by a distinctive colour theme, oscillating between light green and turquoise. Le Méjan in Arles, a former chapel built on the banks of the Rhône whose high nave now accommodates an exhibition space, is also instilled with a fascinating mood blending art and spirituality.

Art & Art of War

Centre d’Art Contemporain in Briançon, Place Forte de Mont Dauphin & Le Bastion (Musée Cocteau)

Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur has an undeniable talent for converting the emblems of its military past into hubs of contemporary art. Let’s head to Briançon in the Southern Alps – an ode to Vauban‘s military architecture – and the Briançon Contemporary Arts Centre on Place d’Armes. Nestling on the ramparts, this vast exhibition space presents major works from the current arts scene, showcased against a backdrop of metal frames and 18th century dungeons. There’s no need to travel far to continue your artistic adventure between past and present. The stronghold of Mont-Dauphin (also designed by Vauban) harbours a monumental series of 35 sculptures by Senegalese artist Ousmane Sow on the theme of “The Battle of Little Bighorn”, fought between the US army and Cheyenne and Sioux Indians in 1876. Next, head to Menton on the Italian border, also an ancient strategic defensive post. Le Bastion, a military fort erected in the 17th century, was converted into a museum dedicated to Jean Cocteau in 1966, described by the artist as “A bastion at the end of the dyke, where I could display my work like Picasso at the Antibes museum”. His wish was granted: today, visitors can contemplate his tapestry “Judith and Holofernes” and the “Ennamoratis” there.

Art & Mansions

Hôtel d’Agar & Campredon Centre d’Art, Pearls of the Luberon

Nicknamed the “Luberon Palace”, the Hôtel d’Agar in Cavaillon combines Ancient Greek art, Caravaggio-style works and contemporary creation with finesse. You’ll even find a cabinet of curiosities there! This sublime building, now a listed monument, hosts two temporary exhibitions every year, alongside works by Louise Bourgeois and Claude Viallat. A stone’s throw away, the Campredon Centre d’Art at Hotel Donadéï in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is also a partly-listed monument. Built in 1746, this centre promotes emerging artists and visual arts of all kinds, including sculpture, painting, video, photography and installations.

Collection Lambert in Avignon, Pavillon Vendôme in Aix & Centre d’Art Contemporain in Istres

Located in the heart of Avignon, the Collection Lambert brings together an exceptional collection of contemporary works of art (including “Asbestos” by Jean-Michel Basquiat and “Untitled” by Sol Lewitt), in two magnificent 18th century mansions. The various rooms showcase numerous iconic minimal, conceptual and land art creations. A pearl of Aix-en-Provence, the Pavillon Vendôme, standing in a French-style garden, combines the three classic orders of architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The façade is adorned with Baroque Atlanteans, fruit garlands and a gargoyle. This timeless venue forms an idyllic backdrop for modern and contemporary art exhibitions, such as Eric Bourret’s photos of Sainte Victoire mountain, showing in summer 2021. Another exceptional address: the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Istres, nestling inside an 18th-century mansion and boasting an impressive central staircase around which the various exhibitions pan out.

Art & Châteaux

Centre International d’Art Contemporain in Carros, Musée de Vence & Château de Tarascon

Welcome to a voyage out of time, where contemporary art takes root in medieval settings and the soul of old stones resonates with modern creation… The journey begins at the Centre International d’Art Contemporain, set inside Carros’s medieval castle built in 1156. The site’s pleasing blend of antique, medieval, baroque and contemporary architecture strikes up a fascinating dialogue with the works on show – a vast array of local artistic creations from recent decades inspired by the Abstract and New Realism movements, and the Nice School. Just a few kilometres further on you’ll find the Musée de Vence, clinging to the ramparts of this ancient town, next to a 12th-century watchtower. The museum’s temporary exhibitions honour Vence’s great artists (Matisse, Dufy, Chagall, Dubuffet) and the diversity of the contemporary art world. In the same spirit, Château de TarasconCentre d’Art René d’Anjou, built in the 15th century, features contemporary creations (paintings, sculptures, installations, etc.) on the animal theme in the former royal apartments. The site’s magnificent volumes offer a perfect showcase for the XXL works.

Art & Villas

Villa Tamaris & Villa Noailles

Tucked away in the heart of a pine forest, on the heights of a hill gazing out over the Mediterranean, Villa Tamaris in La Seyne-sur-Mer is one of a group of around fifty villas designed in the 1880s by former merchant navy captain Michel Pacha. Boasting an impressive yet refined architecture, the villa is built in a palatial style. The permanent collection on show in this sumptuous setting comprises around 650 works, mostly from the New Figuration and Narrative Figuration movements. Next, it’s time for a radical change of scenery at Villa Noailles in Hyères. This villa, designed in the 1920s by Robert Mallet-Stevens for patrons of the arts Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, is a flagship of modern architectural heritage. The interior instilled with an art-deco mood was a hub of the avant-garde movement between the 1920s and 1960s.

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