We might not always realise just how much Nice has been and remains to this day a rich seedbed for contemporary artistic creation. So many artists flocked here during the 20th century, some staying longer than others but all profoundly influenced by the evocatively powerful landscapes and radiant light any visitor to Nice cannot fail to notice.
In 1947, after his self-imposed exile in Amsterdam to escape the Nazi government, Max Beckmann stayed in Nice where he produced one of his masterpieces, Promenade des Anglais in Nizza, presently hanging in the Museum Folkwang in Essen.
Around the same time, an artist described by some—wrongly I might add—as more ‘decorative’, Raoul Dufy, endlessly painted and repainted scenes of life in Nice in which he stubbornly depicted the city’s pier despite it having been destroyed in 1944 by the German occupying forces.
And, of course, we have Henri Matisse, a leading light of 20th century France, who—after his first sojourn here in 1905 through to his death in 1954—truly made Nice his home, at several residencies in fact, and produced a substantial part of his work here, most notably his ‘cut-outs’ that revolutionised art in the 20th century.
One could imagine that the sociological and demographic transformations the city went through during the post-war period might have cut short the city’s creative bent. Nothing of the sort. Indeed, it was just then that what art historians call the ‘École de Nice’ emerged, a School which, like Pascal’s infinity, has been described as ‘a circle whose centre is everywhere, its circumference nowhere.’
This is the third time that the municipality of Nice has entrusted me with the curatorship of a summer program that brings together a number of the city's museums under a common theme. In 2013, this program was based on the fiftieth anniversary of the Matisse Museum; in 2015, it focused on Nice's candidature for inclusion on the World Heritage list. Thus, Un été pour Matisse (A Summer for Matisse) was followed by Promenade(S) des Anglais.
When Olivier-Henri Sambucchi and I asked ourselves how to orient this year's program, we quickly agreed that we could not avoid presenting the seventieth anniversary of of the presumed creation of what the history of art would later call the "School of Nice". This "school" most certainly existed, to the point that the recently opened Pompidou Center would dedicate an exhibition to it in 1977, named after a famous and pioneering cinematographic work by Jean Vigo: À propos de Nice (1930).
The MAMAC exhibition would constitute a milestone in our consideration of the "School of Nice". The Masséna Museum exhibition would evoke some of the major moments in history when the destiny of Nice was interwoven with world history and became part of it by contributing to it with originality and frequently in a determinant way. Finally, taking note of the fact that 109, the creation laboratory of the City of Nice, wished to present an exhibition during the summer on the Supports/Surfaces movement, we decided to associate this event to the program. It constitutes a second contribution to thinking on the influence of artists from Nice, or who worked in Nice, to an international creative movement. On the return path from these exhibitions, near the shore, visitors can also stop at the Ponchettes gallery to discover the exhibition entitled: Noël Dolla, Restructurations spatiale (Spatial Restructurings). It puts the spotlight on the pioneering work of this great artist from Nice, who was a member of Supports/Surfaces.