5 Fabulous Art Destinations to Visit on the Côte d’Azur this Summer

Best enjoyed after a dip in the Mediterranean.

The French Mediterranean cost

Every summer, the siren call of the French Riviera lures the world’s rich and famous who flock to the Côte d’Azur in their mega yachts. The season unofficially begins with Leonardo DiCaprio’s annual fundraiser in St. Tropez (which raised a record $40 million this year) and runs through the end of August. But south-east France is more than just a summertime playground for the billionaires club, it is also speckled with exciting art destinations, many of which only recently opened. Home to a new sculpture garden, numerous museums, and important festivals, it is high time to look at the best art destinations along the French Mediterranean coastline.

Natasha Caruana "I had seen her" (2014) Photo Courtesy the artist

Natasha Caruana, I had seen her (2014)
Photo Courtesy the artist

1. Rencontres d’Arles, Arles

Running from July to September in various venues across Arles, “Rencontres” became known as the most important photography festival in the world, largely due to its policy of showing almost exclusively new work. Founded in 1970, this year’s edition presents some 35 exhibitions, bringing together contemporary and emerging positions as well as historical moments in the medium’s evolution into the fine art sphere, with two major survey shows, one dedicated to Walker Evans and the other to Stephen Shore.

A special mention goes to the show “Love at first sight” by London-based artist Natasha Caruana, winner of the 2014 BMW Residency at the Musée Nicéphore Niépce. Caruana mixes autobiography, popular myths, and scientific research to get to the bottom of the titular phenomenon, making some striking discoveries along the way.

Rencontres d’Arles 2015 runs from July 6 – September 20.

Miroslaw Balka Heaven (2010) installed in the court of the Hôtel de Caumont. Photo: Photo VD / Le Figaro.

Miroslaw Balka’s Heaven (2010) installed in the court of the Hôtel de Caumont. 
Photo: Collection Lambert

2. Collection Lambert, Avignon

The 78-year-old former art dealer Yvon Lambert shut down his gallery in December 2014, expressing his bitter dismay at the commercialization of the art market. Having donated major works from his own collection to the French state back in 2012, Lambert was moved to tears in July when, after some delays and a €15 million renovation, he could finally celebrate the long-awaited inauguration of the newly-expanded space housing the Collection Lambert.

The museum currently shows his extensive collection of American minimalism, with works by Carl Andre, Robert Ryman, Donald Judd, and Sol LeWitt. The permanent hanging includes works by artists such as Cy Twombly, Nan Goldin, Jean-Michel BasquiatJulian Schnabel, and Bruce Nauman in the impressively refurbished Hôtel de Montfaucon.

Collection Lambert is located at 5 rue Violette, Avignon.

Installation view of "From chagall to Malevich" at Forum Grimaldi, Monaco

Installation view of “From Chagall to Malevich” at the Forum Grimaldi, Monaco
Photo: Forum Grimaldi

3. Forum Grimaldi, Monaco

The current exhibition brings together 150 major works by notable artists of Russia’s avant-garde art scene from 1905 to 1930, with works by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Rodchenko, and Kasimir Malevich, including loans from Russian institutions that have never been shown outside of Russia before. The exhibition traces the various movements and schools of the early 20th century, from Impressionism to Futurism, Rayonism, Suprematism, and Constructivism, which changed artistic and academic conventions for good.

A unique highlight is Marc Chagall‘s rarely exhibited mega-composition Introduction to the Jewish Theater (1920), which tells much about how artists joined forces with avant-garde playwrights, actors, and theatrical producers to create new stage experiences.

“From Chagall to Malevich, The Revolution of the Avant-Garde” is on view at the Forum Grimaldi in Monaco from July 12 – September 6. 

Mark Handforth Deep Violet(2014)

Mark Handforth Deep Violet (2014)
Photo: courtesy Domaine du Muy Sculpture Park

4. Domaine du Muy Sculpture Park, Var

Just a stone’s throw away from St. Tropez and Nice, the newly-opened sculpture park, founded by Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand of Galerie Mitterrand, offers a two-kilometer path that runs through untamed nature with outdoor sculptures by some of the world’s biggest contemporary artists, including works by Carsten Höller, Yayoi Kusama, Anthony Gormley, and Sol LeWitt.

The sculpture park is conceived as an ever-evolving open air gallery, with new commissions added as existing works are sold, so it’s worth coming back. A recent new commission is Tomás Saraceno‘s Cloud Cities, a 5-meter-long sculpture of interconnected polyhedrons.

Domaine du Muy is open by appointment through October 2015.

View of Art-O-Rama 2014 <br>Photo: art-o-rama.tumblr.com

View of Art-O-Rama 2014
Photo: art-o-rama.tumblr.com

5. Art-O-Rama, Marseille

Founded in 2007, Art-O-Rama is the only art fair in the south of France, but that’s not its only unique feature: Instead of standardized booths, it allows exhibitors to present their artists in customized architecture. With a small roster of galleries from Paris, Seoul, Brussels, Berlin, and elsewhere, the intimate fair is sure to be a departure from the traditional sprawl.

Art-O-Rama takes place at La Cartonnerie in Marseille, France from August 28–30, 2015. 

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