Must-See Art Tips – South of France - ART FIX
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Must-See Art Tips - South of France

European borders have opened — it’s music to our ears! Now that Europe has eased travel restrictions and semi-opened up for tourism, Art Fix is here to provide you with your last-minute travel itinerary. Hit the road and cruise down south. Whether your preference lies with vineyard-lined hills or you’re more of a Mediterranean coastal lover: you’ve got an art destination waiting for you! Time to soak up some culture, and get your art fix. And why not end your day with a cool glass of rosé. See below for our art guide of the summer and don't forget to bring your own face mask.

The French Riviera conjures up images of a glittering sea, yachts, and the world-renowned stretch of coast from Monaco to Saint-Tropez. Beyond the beaches, the Côte d’Azur is most famously known for being the home of impressionist artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, but there’s also plenty contemporary art to see for Art Fixers looking to diversify their beach days. This unique region brings together some of the art world’s best with finest elements of French lifestyle – from vineyards, wineries and restaurants to nature trails and architectural exhibition spaces. If you’re looking for an inspiring, and one-of-a-kind experience in this special part of France, then look no further. The following destinations are not to be missed!

Tom Shannon, Drop, 2009 © Art Fix

Chateau La Coste 

  • Location:  Outside Aix en Provence (10 min drive)  
  • Nearest airport: Marseille Provence Airport (45 min drive)
  • Reopens: 15 June 2020

If you’re looking for a day-trip filled with delicious food, wine, and, of course, spectacular contemporary art, then Chateau La Coste is the place for you. A special pairing of dining, art, and the outdoors, the Chateau’s 700-acre organic wine farm serves as the backdrop for an one of a kind art experience. Contemporary sculptures are scattered throughout the grounds, led by a Crouching Spider from Louise Bourgeois, a bronze sculpture that skims the surface of a shallow pond that welcomes you as the first work you see upon arrival at the estate.

Louise Bourgeois, Crouching Spider, 2003 ©Art Fix

Art Fix recommends taking the art walk tour offered by the Chateau through the estate. On the way, discover sculptures by Sean Scully, Sophie Calle, Alexander Calder, Andy Goldsworthy, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ai Weiwei, Tracey Emin, Alexander Calder, Tom Shannon, Jean Michel Othoniel, and — yes even Art Fix’s hot favorite — street artist JR. What makes these works so unique is that each is built for this location and environment: all artists were invited to choose the location in the landscape of Chateau La Coste for their own work.

From 1 March 2020, the chateau is hosting a special exhibition with the artist Conrad Shawcross, a British sculptor who works with the complex philosophies of science and nature. Shawcross says that his sculptures sometimes appear like “childlike stacks of blocks”, however, they always continue to create an abstract architectural impression on the environment. 

STAY A LITTLE LONGER 

The Irish owner of Chateau La Coste, Patrick McKillen, a hotelier (think of the London Hotels Claridge’s, The Berkeley, The Connaught and The Savoy) added a 5-star hotel to the estate, Villa La Coste, which offers luxury accommodations and a spa. The art continues inside the hotel where McKillen’s collection flank the walls of the public and private spaces in the hotel rooms. How many works by Sean Scully and Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois and even Tracey Emin paintings (above the bed’s in hotel rooms, of course), can you spot?

Tracey Emin in bedroom in Villa La Coste © Art Fix

TIPS

  • Book the tour online and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Before you walk, make sure to reserve your table for lunch at the Mallman restaurant. The Mediterranean fish from the clay oven and the Charolais Beef cooked over a fire or vegetables marinated and seared to perfection on the planche, come highly recommended.
  • Grand Vin Rosé ranks among Art Fix’s favorite biodynamic wines, so don’t forget to pick up a few bottles from the Chateau before leaving.
  • Open, 15 June – 1 November, every day from 10.00 to 19.00. In winter timings may vary. 
  • Visit the website for more information: Chateau La Coste

Watch a video of Chateau la Coste by clicking on this link

Fondation Vasarely © Art Fix

Fondation Vasarely

  • Location:  Outside Aix en Provence (10 min drive)  
  • Nearest airport: Marseille Provence Airport (35 min drive)
  • Reopens: 15 June 2020

Victor Vasarely was a Hungarian-born French artist, and is also known to be the father of “Op Art”. Op Art, short for optical art, is a form of abstract art where the illusion of movement is created by the combination of geometry, colours and patterns. The museum was designed and financed by Vasarely in the late 70s to house and showcase his masterpieces. While the museum is in a bit of disrepair, it is still worth visiting, if only to see the artist’s famous optical illusions and experience the rest of Aix-en-Provence.

TIPS

  • Rent the audio guide for the best experience.
  • There’s a good store where you can buy original lithographs.
  • Open every day from 10.00 to 18.00.
  • Visit the website for more information: Fondation Vasarely
View Porquerolles Island © Art Fix

Fondation Carmignac 

  • Location: Island of Porquerolles (15 min by boat near Hyères on the Cote d’Azur)
  • Nearest airport: Marseille Provence Airport or Toulon Hyères Airport
  • Reopens: 4 July 2020

Escape the busy Riviera to discover the contemporary art museum, the Fondation Carmignac (opened in 2017) hidden away on the island of Porquerolles. Due to the lack of permission to build a new museum structure (the entire island is listed as a French National Pine Forest!) the foundation has converted a former vineyard’s farmhouse into a 2,000 sq. m exhibition space by digging underground. The founders Charles and Edouard Carmignac intended to create an odyssey. ‘It’s a kind of striptease, an invitation to shed your museum-going habits and leave them behind.” 

The next thing you have to “strip off” upon arrival is your bags,  that you can leave behind in well organized lockers at the entrance. Followed by your shoes and socks as one enters the museum barefoot, forming direct contact with the cool sandstone floor. You are then offered a refreshing tea made out of herbs and local plants, part of the museum’s special multi-sensory experience.

Only 50 people are allowed to enter every half hour, which is aligned with the owners belief that art experiences should be contemplative. In multiple interconnected spaces on two floors you can explore fantastic contemporary artworks that range from major artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter. The galleries are surrounded by a 15-hectare sculpture park with large scale artworks by Jaume Plensa, Ugo Rondinone, Jeppe Hein, Ed Ruscha and many more. From the shimmering glass and water-projection ripples on the museum floor to beautiful shaped windows, do not miss this unique experience if you’re in the area. 

Ugo Rondinone, Four Seasons 2018 © Art Fix

TIPS

  • You can take a 15-minute local ferry across to Porquerolles or pre-book a taxi boat for 1-6 people. Art Fix recommends ‘The Pelican’ who can be reached  at +33 4 94 58 31 19.
  • For lunch, there’s a café outside under the shade of the trees that serves fresh and delicious lunch/coffee/squeezed juices. If you’re looking for more of a buzz, you can go to Le Pelagos in the village center where they serve tapas. For some of the best Provençal cuisine in the South of France head over to The Olivier restaurant at the La Mas du Langoustier.
  • We highly recommend that you reserve your tickets on the Fondation Carmignac’s website and don’t forget to bring your own face mask!
  • 4th July – 1st November 2020: Exhibition: “Carmignac Photojournalism Award: 10 Years of Reportage”.
  • Open from 4 July to 1 November 2020, Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00. Last entry at 16.30.
  • Visit the website for more information: Fondation Carmignac

La Commanderie de Peyrassol  

  • Location: The village of Flassans-sur-Issole, among the hills of the Var department in the Provence
  • Nearest airport: Nice International Airport (50 min drive)

In the Provence we recommend another vineyard which has extended its interest into the world of contemporary art. Although known for its Côtes de Provence AOC and tasting cellar, there is plenty of stunning art to discover at Commanderie de Peyrassol.

Provided with a map, visitors are welcome to walk the wonderful vineyards of Peyrassol. 

Gavin Turk, L’Age d’Or, 2012 © Art Fix

The combination of provincial French buildings, countryside, and wine makes for a wonderful setting to enjoy the sculptures, which include pieces by Daniel Buren, Gavin Turk, Victor Vasarely, Anthony Caro, Lee Ufan, Carsten Höller and Jean Dubuffet. An indoor gallery space was added to the grounds in 2016 to house more fragile works. Designed by Charles Berthier, the indoor space and its use of contemporary materials and architecture provides a striking contrast with the surroundings. 

Daniel Buren, Le Cylindre Incrusté Aux Couleurs, 2017 © Art Fix

TIPS

  • As it can get very hot in the summer sunshine, Art Fix suggests you rent a golf buggy and explore artworks at your own comfortable pace.
  • To view the gallery you do need to make an appointment or join one of the guided tours.
  • You can also stay overnight to experience the restaurant serving up local fair to compliment the wine. ‘La table de Peyrassol’ is open daily from Easter to mid-October. 
  • Are you a truffle lover? One of the best truffle restaurants in the world is only a 15-minute drive away, Chez Bruno.
  • Open every day from 10.00 to 19.00. Book you ticket in advance.
  • Visit the website for more information: La Commanderie de Peyrassol
Subodh Gupta, A Giant Leap of Faith, 2006

Domaine du Muy

  • Location: Le Muy (30 min from Saint-Tropez)
  • Nearest airport: Nice International Airport (45 min drive)

For nearly 30 years, Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand, the nephew of the former French president, has held a special place in his heart for sculpture. His endeavours stretch from his gallery in Le Marais to numerous exhibitions around the world. One of these is Domaine du Muy. Here you’ll find a giant apple, a silver car, and Kusama’s silver balls just 30-minutes north of Saint-Tropez, hidden in a pristine pine forest. In 2014, Jean-Gabriel and his son, Edward, set about creating a private space dedicated to monumental sculpture.

Claude Lalanne, Pomme de New York, 2006 © Art Fix

The Domaine du Muy: an open-air sculpture park nestled between the massif des Maures and the Esterel mountains. Mediterranean pine forests extend for miles; enveloping glistening ponds and secret valleys. Domaine du Muy is now home to around forty contemporary works, completed by artists such as John Armleder, Danh Vo, Subodh Gupta, Carsten Höller, Sol Lewitt, Conrad Shawcross, Takis, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Keith Haring.

TIPS:

Bernar Venet, Effondrement 16 Arcs, 2018 © Art Fix

The Venet Foundation 

  • Location: Le Muy (30 min from Saint-Tropez)
  • Nearest airport: Nice International Airport (45 min drive)
  • Reopens: 18 June 2020

The Venet Foundation, owned by French conceptual artist Bernar Venet, in Provence’s Le Muy (opened in 2014), is a project that has been in the making for over 25 years. The site was developed in conversation with minimalist master and founder of Marfa, Texas, Donald Judd. It features a chapel designed by Frank Stella, numerous large pieces by Venet himself, and holds around 100 works by fellow postwar and contemporary art giants: Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Richard Long, Jean Tinguely and Dan Flavin. What makes this collection so special is how personal it is: Venet often trades his own works for those on view. 

James Turrell, Elliptic, Ecliptic, 1999, © Art Fix

TIPS

  • Make sure you do not miss James Turrell’s new installations – collectively grouped under the title “Inspire the Light”. Turrell’s Skyscape – entitled “Elliptic, Ecliptic” – seems, from the inside, like a white sculpture carved into the deep blue sky. The second piece, entitled “Prana”, is an aperture: inside the pitch-dark room, a red rectangle projects a foggy, almost volcanic, crimson hue.
  • All visits are guided by one of Venet’s team members. Access to the property without a reservation is prohibited, so we recommend that you make a reservation at least one month ahead of your desired visit date via the website. A little strange but you pay for the entrance in dollars as their foundation is based in New York.
  • Visit the website for more information: Venet Foundation
Fondation Maeght

Fondation Maeght

  • Location: Saint Paul de Vence on the Côte d’Azur
  • Nearest airport: Nice International Airport (20 min drive)
  • Reopens: 1 July 2020

Located near the quaint village of Saint Paul de Vence, the Fondation Maeght is visited by more than 100,000 sculpture park aficionados each year. A must-see: the Maeght Foundation features sculptures like the “Giacometti courtyard”, the “Miró labyrinth”, and the mural mosaics by Marc Chagall and Pierre Tal Coat.

From 1 July through to 22 November 2020, the Foundation Maeght will present a 60 work exhibition of Jacques Monory, a pioneer of the Narrative Figuration movement. His almost exclusive use of blue – a Monory signature – and his monochrome canvases with their photo-like finishes will be on full display.

Jacques Monory, Dreamtiger n° 4, 1972

TIPS

  • For a taste of the Provence – Picasso, Matisse, Leger and Calder – head over to the famous La Colombe d’Or  restaurant and hotel, but make sure to book in advance!
  • Open every day from 10.00 to 18.00.
  • Visit the website for more information: Fondation Maeght
Jaume Plensa, Nomade, 2007

Jaume Plensa’s public sculpture’s on the Riviera 

  • Location: Antibes Harbour & Nice city center
  • Nearest airport: Nice Airport

Created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, “Nomade” is a monumental sculpture of a squatting man looking out to sea on the ramparts of Antibes. Eight metres high and five metres wide, the man, from a distance, appears to be made of lace. Yet as you get closer, you realise it is created entirely of white steel letters. It is open and even large enough to walk inside! This work is not only an incredible opportunity to take photographs, but you may even spot some telling words among the letters.

Jaume Plensa, Conversations in Nice, 2007

Another monumental installation by Jaume Plensa, “Conversations in Nice”, is made up of seven crouching men on pillars, perched high above Nice’s central Place Massena. These figures, created out of resin, light up in different colours at night, glowing gently from one tone to another to represent conversations between the seven continents.

TIPS

  • If you have time, visit the Picasso Museum nearby 
  • Open to the public 24/7
  • Visit the website for more information: Nomade & Conversations in Nice

FOR A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE MUST-SEE ART TIPS, CLICK ON THIS LINK