Public art is everywhere in France, whether it’s a temporary installation for a particular occasion or something permanent, it’s all around. Most towns 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, 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 infact 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.
Conversations à Nice
Another monumental installation by Jaume Plensa, Conversations 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 divdes the old town from the new.
Thanks to Margo at The Curious Rambler for the photo above
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.
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.
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.
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 (though the museum is free) 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.
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!