June 7, 2010
La Cote d'Azur Artistique
Why do we all think of the Cote d'Azur as a hot spot beach resort with clubbing, gambling, ostentatious wedding parties or luxurious honeymoons? Its so much more than that!
In the summer of 1992 I bought a travel book from the States and packed it with my new JCrew swim suits and my (oh gosh how embarrassing!) Moschino outfits for my annual trip to our summer home in the South of France. I had long since learned not to say the South, which was a chichi way to refer to it in the eighties. My parents had bought a house there in 1984.
So, eight summers later, I finally intended to discover this beyond beautiful area of the world. Book in hand, I bossed my whole family into car drives around the region (and sometimes tiring train rides!)
Now my parents did have the gastronomical green Michelin books, with their tiny print on quasi silk paper thin pages. But they had been busy renovating the house, lounging by the pool and enjoying the yuppie lifestyle of the 1980s. And I had been coaching my poor siblings SATs and helping them fill college applications for many summers.
American tourist book in hand, we followed easy instructions diligently. We discovered walking paths in Cap Ferrat and Antibes, we admired the back country and the Alps, we went on excursions to medieval villages. Furthermore, what we unveiled that summer was the artistic side of the South of France.
There are at least two dozen art museums on the coast from Saint Tropez to Monaco. The reason is that this beautiful area of the world attracted the artists who came to paint its landscapes: Picasso is the most famous (museum in Antibes), but also Matisse (museum in Cimiez, Nice), Chagall (Nice), Renoir (Cagnes sur Mer), Leger (Biot), Picasso ceramics (Valauris), Raoul Duffy (Nice), Jean Cocteau (Menton), Seurralt (Saint Tropez), leCorbusier (Cap Martin). Not to mention Musee de Nice showcasing their very own School of Nice (Yves Klein, Cesar, Armand, Sosno, Ben and Venet, with special exhibits for Nikki de SaintPhal and Djemel Tatah). We went to these museums in 1996 for the first time but we repeated our visits again and again.
My favorite haven is Saint Paul de Vence. Why do people only go see the boules players or the famous restaurant, la Colombe d'Or? La Colombe d'Or is a hotel restaurant with an outdoor ceramic large panel by Leger, a giant Cesar thumb marble sculpture at the entrance and a Calder mobile entertaining the swimmers in the green pool. Ah la dolce vita!
At St Paul, there is la Foundation Maegh right next to the round about with the huge steel Calder. You enter the grounds, discover the 1960s architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright inspired, but the materials are more light) and low and behold, the most astonishing collection of Alberto Giacomettis, dispersed in the gardens, on the verandas. If not for the sound of cicadas in the pine trees, you could be at Foundation Bayerl in Basel, in the Swiss Alps (same 60s architecture, same Giacomettis).