Public art on the Côte d’Azur is prolific and interesting. It can also be found all over France in general. Whether it’s a temporary installation for a particular occasion or something permanent, it’s all around.  Most towns in France no matter how big or small take pride in making their public spaces attractive; you can usually find fountains and sculptures alongside well-tended flower beds and attractive borders even in the tiniest of villages.  There’s even art on the side of the motorways to brighten up your journey!  And it’s not all old by any means. New commissions go up regularly, I’m forever spotting something I hadn’t noticed before and then realising that it’s because it’s new and wasn’t there the last time I passed by.

Here are a few of my favourite pieces of public art on the Côte d’Azur.

Nomade Antibes Jaume Plensa


Nomade, by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, is a monumental sculpture of a squatting man looking out to sea on the ramparts of Antibes.  8 metres high and 5 metres wide, it appears from a distance to be made of lace but as you get closer you realise it is in fact created entirely of steel letters painted white.  It is open and large enough to walk inside, from where you can contemplate the idea of sculpture made from emptiness and silence.  (If there aren’t too many other visitors climbing all around you!)  The white letters against the deep blue sky always look dramatic and I love photographing its different angles.

public art côte d'azur | lou messugo

kid in sculpture

Conversation à Nice

Another monumental installation by Jaume Plensa, Conversation in Nice is made up of 7 crouching men on pillars high above Place Massena, the central square, in Nice.  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 7 continents.  I find it very soothing and love watching the colours change.  During the day the crouching men keep watch over the busy central square that divides the old town from the new.

Public art Côte d'Azur | Lou Messugo

Thanks to Margo at The Curious Rambler for the photo above

public art Côte d'Azur | Lou Messugo

Banc de Poissons

Shoal of Fish by Sylvain Subervie can be found on the seafront in Cagnes sur Mer, at the Eastern end of the Hippodrome.  Made out of wrought iron, this sculpture consists of 12 fish of varying sizes from 2 to 4 metres.  They play with the light and wind and better photographers than me have taken wonderful pictures of them, particularly at night.

public art côte d'azur | lou messugo

public art côte d'azur fish sculture

Thanks to Janet at Mitchell Johnson for the photo above

More public art on the Côte d’Azur: Le Pouce

The Thumb by César, located in the entrance of the Hotel de Ville in Nice (city hall), is an actual imprint of the artist’s own thumb and is one of a series of several thumbs, located notably in Marseille and La Défense. This particular sculpture is the smallest at only 1.85 m high.  The others range from 6-12 metres. César spent some time living in my town Roquefort les Pins and was also the creator of the bronze statues given to winners at the French equivalent of the Oscars, the “Césars”.  I’ve always loved pictures and sculptures of hands and love the realistic detail in this thumb.

public art côte d'azur

Miles Davis

Miles Davis by Niki de Saint Phalle standing outside the Negresco Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.  This larger than life statue of the famous trumpeter doesn’t bear much resemblance to the musician himself but it’s colourful and fun and evokes his spirit well.

public art côte d'azur | lou messugo

Le Monstre de Loch Ness

For more pieces by Niki de Saint Phalle, MAMAC (the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice) has a sizeable collection of her art, including her take on the Loch Ness Monster a fountain made out of mirrors.   While the items inside the museum can’t really be included in this list of public art, the monster is located outside on the forecourt between it and the National Theatre, thus rendering it public, and includable here.  Also in this photo is Tribute to Alexander Calder, a wooden installation by Arne Quinze, which unfortunately, as I love it, is only temporary. ***UPDATE 2023 The Loch Ness Monster has been removed for the duration of the building works that are taking place around the MAMAC. It will be back when the works are finished, expected in 2025***

Niki de Saint Phalle MAMAC monstre de loch ness

There are plenty more wonderful works of art on the French Riviera, this may well be the beginning of a series.  What do you think of my choices?  Do you have any favourite sculptures or other forms of public art?  Do tell!

Related Reading:

Cannes cinema street art

3 unusual things to love about Nice



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