Is Art Monte Carlo becoming the navel of the Art Riviera?

Stefano Pirovano

Cool art fairs, vibrant art institutions and sophisticated collectors are re-positioning the French Riviera on the European contemporary art map. A brighter future is expected for Art Monte Carlo.

Last week the visitors of Art Monte Carlo, boutique art fair of the Principality of Monaco, had certainly noticed the long bulkhead that, from the city, hinders the view of the sea. Apparently it should limit the noise. Not however that of the sea waves, nor that of the breathtaking Formula 1 cars, which will run the 76th edition of the notorious Monaco Grand Prix next 27th of May. The bulkhead is indeed needed to contain the noises of the construction site that is reclaiming almost six hectares of land from the sea around Monaco for creating a new luxury residential complex designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, together wit Giraldi and Valode architects and Michel Desvigne.

New Monte Carlo’s waterfront is expected to be completed in 2025. Besides luxurious private residencies, a 30-berth marina and a landscape park, the project also includes an extension of the Grimaldi Forum congress centre that has just hosted the third edition of Art Montecarlo. Considering that Villa Sauber, one of the two locations of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (the other one is Villa Paloma, the museum has been entirely reorganised in 2010) is just in front of the Forum, on the other side of Avenue Princesse Grace, it is easy to imagine that the heart of the monegasque contemporary art could soon become also that of the French Riviera itself. And it is no coincidence that last year De Jonckheere Gallery opened a new space in Monaco, meanwhile also Fabrizio Moretti has landed here, where he shares his new gallery with Sotheby’s.

Taking into account the size of the sovereign city-state and that the dates of Art Monte Carlo overlapped with the Berlin Gallery Weekend, the fair had nonetheless a positive outcome.

Despite nobody has recorded big sales, there were still many important pieces on show, starting from the beautiful portrait of “Le toréador Belmonte”, at Michael Werner Gallery, painted by Francis Picabia between 1940 and 1941 – yes, he is the character who appears in Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon and The Sun Also Rises. Or, the Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana displayed at Robilant + Voena, a work of a blue as delicate as the natural light which filters through the Forum’s glass roof. On the back of the canvas Fontana wrote ‘Possibile che / gli uomini / politici / non comprendano’ (It might be that/ politicians/ don’t understand). Things haven’t changed, dear Lucio. Meanwhile, amongst the younger ones, the Moroccan-born artist Latifa Echakhch was under the spotlight (on show at Kaufmann Repetto and at Kamel Mennour). Her ‘Jardin Mécanique‘ has inaugurated at the eve of the fair at Villa Sauber, and represent significant step ahead after the Prix Marchel Duchamp the artist won in 2016.

This however wouldn’t be enough to talk about the future, if then, crossed the border, the dream ended. Instead, the dream continues in Provence, close to Grasse, in the enchanting Moulin des Ribes, thanks to a project supported by collector Silvia Fiorucci together with the Villa Noailles Art Center in Hyères. 5Rooms, so the initiative is titled, gave the opportunity to five interior design studios to design to the last detail (with the only obligation to avail themselves of local artisans and craftsmanship) as many rooms of a watermill from XVIII centuries. Here the studios: Joachim Jirou-Najou, Paul Brissonnet + Alexandre Benjamin Navet, Superpoly, Studio Quetzal, e Zanellato/Bortotto, all past winners of the Design Parade of Hyères. The future of these rooms hasn’t been announced yet but it’s likely that the mill will become an artist residency.

The dream lives on also in Arles, where the new campus of Luma Foundation is scheduled to open in 2 years time. The institution wanted and financed by Maya Hoffmann (and designed by Frank Gehry) promises to create a new international cultural hub, opened to all kind of arts, to experimentation, to ideas. Marseille, where the art fair Art O Rama takes place. would benefit from this as well. This year the fair, which has recently become a compulsory destination for emerging galleries, will open on the 31st of August. And that’s not all. There is the new sculpture park of the Domain de Muy, created in 2014 by the Parisian art dealer Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand, which can be visited in Summertime, as well as the art and architecture collection of the Château La Coste. Let’s not forget historical venues like the Fondation Maeght, the Musée Picasso in Antibes (the second-floor is currently under restoration), or the Musée Matisse in Nice. So it seems this has already become the Riviera of art.

May 4, 2018