There can be no doubting the significance of the French Riviera to the history of modern art. Since the time of the Impressionists, the Riviera has been inspiring artists with its incredible light and the potency of its colours. Renoir lived in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Picasso in Antibes, Cezanne in Aix, Fernand Leger in Biot and Matisse in Nice, and surrounding them a seemingly relentless flow of visiting and other artists came to the Riviera in turn. The result is an artistic heritage which is almost unrivalled by other European regions.
Amongst the many artist-museums which consequently pepper the area, the Fondation Maeght is amongst the most important. Located only minutes from La Colombe d’Or, the foundation was entirely conceived and financed by Marguerite and Aimé Maeght to present modern and contemporary art in all its forms. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the realisation of this Foundation with Catalan architect Lluís Sert by creating frequently monumental works integrated into the building and gardens: the Giacometti courtyard, one of the world’s most famous ‘in-situ’ works, the Miró labyrinth filled with sculptures and ceramics, the mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat, and the pool and stained glass window by Braque.
When we ventured to the foundation after some hours languishing by the Calder mobile of La Colombe’s pool, we were somewhat disappointed by the extent of the famed collection. Entire galleries were given over to temporary exhibitions, with only one room seemingly devoted to a permanent collection. However, we could not deny being impressed by the gardens, so sumptuously saturated in art, densely packed under the canopy of a pine-tree forest. There amongst the faded light, a labyrinth collated from sculptures by Miro formed unique and startling silhouettes against a stormy sky, and as the earth rumbled with a humid thunderstorm, the atmosphere seemed charged with the almost surreal atmosphere created by these sculpted forms.
More than 200,000 visitors come each year to the Maeght Foundation, which has put on over 100 monographic or thematic exhibitions since its opening. We were perhaps unlucky to visit when only a fraction of the permanent collection was on display, but for the uniquely conceived art of its gardens, it lived up to its fame. The photos in this post show the best of the incredible outside installations permanently on display.