23 June to 22 October 2017
Lead curator: :
Hélène Guenin assisted by Rébecca François
Associate curators: :
Florence Ostende and Géraldine Gourbe, supported by the curatorial research grant awarded by the CNAP
Promenade des Arts - Place Yves Klein
Tél. : +33(0)4 97 13 42 01
Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays) from 10 am to 6 pm
Tarifs des entrées :
Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain
Situé en coeur de ville, le MAMAC offre une plongée dans l’aventure de l’art des années 1950 à nos jours. La collection, riche de plus de 1 300 oeuvres de 300 artistes trouve son articulation essentielle dans le rapport entre le Nouveau Réalisme européen et l’expression américaine de l’art d’assemblage et du Pop Art. Elle déploie également des oeuvres-clés de l’art minimal ou de l’arte povera. Deux figures majeures de l’art du XXe siècle constituent le coeur des collections : Yves Klein, notamment grâce aux dépôts des Archives Yves Klein, et Niki de Saint Phalle grâce à sa donation en 2001. Le MAMAC propose également un programme d’expositions temporaires qui actualisent les grands enjeux et gestes de la collection tandis que la galerie contemporaine et la Galerie des Ponchettes incarnent la vocation prospective du musée. Depuis février 2017, le MAMAC bénéficie d’une nouvelle entrée ouverte sur la place Yves Klein, articulant fluidité de l’accueil et geste artistique avec une commande monumentale réalisée par Tania Mouraud.
As part of the « Nice 2017. École(S) de Nice » programme organised by the City of Nice, curated by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, and the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Centre Pompidou.
One summer’s day in Nice back in 1947, three young men made a pact to divide the universe up between them: Yves Klein, the IKB master in the making, laid claim to the infinite blue of the sky; the poet Claude Pascal took the air, which left Arman, the future maestro of accumulation, the land and all its riches. From this casual promise that became the stuff of legend emerged a dazzling constellation of artistic gestures and new encounters that proliferated across the Côte d’Azur, sending shock waves through the art world. In 1977, the Centre Pompidou in Paris celebrated this creative endeavour with À propos de Nice [About Nice], an exhibition that retraced the phenomenon of artistic emulation that spread between 1956 and 1976 fuelled by the great agitator and one of the instigators of this epic movement: Ben.
Now in 2017, the MAMAC is looking back at that period when a new movement crystallised in Nice in the hands and minds of a group of charismatic personalities who blazed trails between major artistic capitals on the world stage and Nice. The proposed exhibition has been shaped by this revolution of innovative gestures, this insurrection of thought and form orchestrated by the artists with their insolent attitudes and fascination with mythology. Weaving a narrative from dates, movements and personalities, this exhibition spread over 2,400 sq.m is arranged around a constellation of artistic practices and inter-disciplinary approaches that interconnect the participating artists. The exhibition also sheds light on some of the iconic places and important events that marked this artistic endeavour. The inter-connections between these artistic gestures, possibilities specific to the location and the geographic and cultural context of the coastal city of Nice will also be examined, echoing the intuition expressed by Jean-Jacques Lévêque in 1967: « Our present reality has its own aspects of beauty: fruit machines, jukeboxes, motorways (with their interchanges like long, winding sculptures), the joyful colours of plastics, neons, brilliant nickel-plating on cars, and so forth. The École de Nice endeavours to describe the wonders of modern life. »
« The École de Nice arose from (...) a dream of freedom »
Marcel Alocco, « Signer au dos le ciel » in Identités, n°11-12, summer/autumn 1965
Forty years ago, the Centre Pompidou first opened its doors. Its inaugural shows included a group exhibition curated by Ben, dedicated to Nice’s art scene between the years 1956 and 1976. This exhibition was one in a long line of events organised in Vence, Nice and all along the Côte d’Azur under the much-debated name of the École de Nice. Invited by the museum’s director, Pontus Hulten, who regarded the artist as a key witness, work horse and agent of this artistic endeavour, Ben presented the work of thirty or so artists who had played some part in this movement that sent the history of contemporary art in a new, exciting direction. While Nice spurred international artistic practice at the turn of the 20th century, it wasn’t until the post-war period that the city became not just a backdrop where artists would come to finish their latest piece, but a destination recognised for its capacity to inspire creative individuality. More than recognising this phenomenon at the institutional level, the About Nice exhibition defends the wealth and diversity of the art scene on the French Riviera in the wake of the long-standing dominance of the École de Paris. Pontus Hulten said in 1977 that ‘contemporary art would not have been what it was without the events and meeting of minds that took place in the Nice region.’ The selection made in 1977 was, however, the subject of some debate, bringing to light theoretical, ideological and personal rifts and contentions between artists and art critics kindled by the first appearance of the term in 1960 in an article by Claude Rivière in Combat. Indeed, Jean-Jacques Lévêque reflected on the matter in 1967: The old question arises: What is a School? The Paris School was never united by aesthetics, it was merely a loose, facile label used to unite very different personalities. Did the Nice School demonstrate any more unity? Between Arman and Ben, between Malaval and P.A. Gette, what link can we establish? Merely a very clear refusal of traditional art (which is healthy for some and harmful for others) and more importantly the commendable temptation to define a certain poetry of the time. (...) » (« École de Nice », Opus International, n°1, april 1967).
Whatever name or label it was given, the form it took or the list of key figures associated with it, there was certainly a wave of crystallisation and emulation that spread through Nice and along the Côte d’Azur in the 1950s through to the 1970s. A series of moments of dazzling brilliance, gestures, and attitudes, a constellation of charismatic personalities who aspired to explore this ‘crazy diagonal line’ traced by Arman and others still between Nice and major international artistic capitals lest it vanish in the Parisian melting pot. It all began with a myth of the modern age: in 1947, three men on a beach in Nice—Yves Klein, Arman and Claude Pascal—promised to divide the world between them, an inaugural gesture and search for the absolute that opened the way to an exciting scene at the heart of, and in reaction to, the tranquillity of the seaside town. Beyond the accounts that traditionally define the École de Nice as a succession of movements that existed or emerged in this context— Nouveaux Réalistes, Fluxus, Supports/Surfaces, Groupe 70 and so forth, the exhibition organised by the MAMAC, About Nice 1947, gets to the heart of the mindset that set this endeavour in motion and contemplates the fundamental gestures and the personalities that emerged from a place of outward-looking emulation rather than schoolish intention.
The exhibition proposed by the MAMAC is inspired by this revolution of innovative gestures, insurrection of thought and form orchestrated by the artists, appetite for irreverence, period of insolence, fascination with stories and mythology, hunger to exist outside the sphere of Paris and ardent aspiration to showcase local talent while attracting international recognition.
The path through this endeavour is waymarked by a constellation of keywords, symbolic of the practices employed by the actors on the scene who came together in Nice through these years creating so many inter-disciplinary approaches that transcended trends. The interconnections between these artistic gestures, possibilities specific to the location and the geographic and cultural context of the coastal city of Nice will also be examined, echoing the intuition expressed by Jean-Jacques Lévêque in 1967: « Our present reality has its own aspects of beauty: fruit machines, jukeboxes, motorways (with their interchanges like long, winding sculptures), the joyful colours of plastics, neons, brilliant nickel-plating on cars, and so forth. The École de Nice endeavours to describe the wonders of modern life. »
Even if we, the artists of Nice, are always on holiday, we are not tourists. That is the essential point. Tourists come here for the holidays; as for us, we live in this holiday land, which is what gives us our touch of madness.
Yves Klein, 1947
Reality works for me [...] It acts as a catalyst for osmosis between the spectator and the wonderful world in which we live. […] Only the new is sanitised; the hygienic, the stainless...
Martial Raysse, 1961
1947: Three young men on a delta bound by their worries and fields of research: Yves [Klein], Claude [Pascal] and myself. Claude spent the time listening to the stars yelling, almost right next to him, I dived as far as the lunar homeland; Yves rejected the night to paint azure skies and detest the holes made by birds; it was a time when all teenagers wanted to possess the universe, we shared it between us, kings of our realm and duties in hand.
The top floor of the museum collections sheds light on the iconic places and important events that today we recognise as milestones or moments of crystallisation or invention along the course of this endeavour.
Le Théâtre de l’Art Total
The second-hand record store opened by Ben at 32, rue Tondutti-de-l’Escarène in Nice, was one of the primary meeting spots for the artists between 1958 and 1972, a place they identified with their movement. Ben’s La Cambra, a monumental and evolving installation that recalls this initial site, evokes the history of Art Total and performance in Nice. In 1963, the arrival in Nice of Fluxus organiser George Maciunas, on Ben Vautier’s invitation, promoted a one-of-a-kind attitude art in France. By inventing simple and poetic gestures, the Fluxus spirit permeated the air on the Côte d’Azur. Ben had an idea to make the movement more distinct: art would be shown in the street and in cafés and not just at the Théâtre de l’Artistique. These actions—sometimes caught on camera or film—aroused the curiosity and wonder of spectators and passers-by drawn into the spectacle. Appropriation of the public space also had an inherently provocative dimension that will forever remain entwined with the memories and history of Art Total, a movement that attempted to connect art and life, art and non-art.
Supports/Surfaces exhibitions in the Nice region
Regarded as the final frontier of the avant-garde in France, Supports/Surfaces experienced meteoric success in the early seventies. While the movement brought together artists from Paris and the south of France, Nice and its environs was a hotbed for experimentation, mostly in the open air (for instance in Coaraze in summer 1969, led by Jacques Lepage, and on the Mediterranean coast in summer 1970). To exhibit their works outside, in the provinces to boot, was a way of declaring they existed outside conventional channels—the bourgeois home, the shopping arcade and the ‘sacralising’ museum—and the ‘indispensable’ Parisian circuits. These exhibitions demonstrated the nomadic, experimental and free-spirited aspect of Supports/Surfaces works. They united artists engaged in this artistic endeavour in the Côte d’Azur at that time. As shown by the brilliant exhibition held at the Théâtre de Nice in 1971, these installations paved the way for a growing trajectory and provided a forum for the contentions and debates that gave the scene its verve and vigour.
La Cédille qui Sourit :
a window into a place of legend
American George Brecht, a pioneer of conceptual art, and Frenchman Robert Filliou, poet and genius of the everyday gesture, decided to move to Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice, and open a ‘non-boutique/bookstore’ that would not take itself too seriously: La Cédille qui Sourit (the Cedilla that Smiles). From October 1965 to March 1968, this ‘international centre of permanent creation’, to quote Filliou, carried publications from the European and American avant-garde art scene and in particular from MAT-MOT, Fluxus and Something Else Press. All sorts of items and objects were displayed there in no particular hierarchy: pendants, object-poems, multiple original works produced by the two artists or others such as Arman, Alison Knowles, Serge III, Bernar Venet, Daniel Spoerri and Ben. The activities organised by La Cédille qui Sourit sometimes took part at the ‘non-shop’ on 12 rue de May ‘always closed, only opening at the visitor’s request’, but mostly in the streets and bars of the old town. Heralding new critical forms of presence in the world that traversed some of the Western cultural shifts that took place circa May 1968, La Cédille qui Sourit was an attempt at a rapprochement of art and everyday life in a small village on the Côte d'Azur whose history still echoes on the international contemporary art scene to this day.
A chronology of events and objects related to the subject, a map of the iconic places and a constellation of encounters and personal relationships (local and international) provide a fascinating and dizzying immersion into this history and historical counterpoint to the themes presented at the museum.
An educational project led in conjunction with the Pavillon Bosio, Art & Exhibition design, École Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques (Monaco) and the Université Paris-Sorbonne - Paris 4 - (Master Pro « Contemporary art and its exhibition ») proposes a historical and critical exploration of the eventful and controversial history of the École de Nice.
Inspired by archival documents by art critics Jacques Lepage and Pierre Restany, students have devised an art trail registered with the IMEC and the Art critic archives at Rennes 2 University. The trail showcases the abundant archives on this subject used for the exhibitions dedicated to the École de Nice by the Alexandre de la Salle gallery, whose catalogues include prefaces written by Pierre Restany: « École de Nice ? » (1967), « École de Nice ! » (1977), « École de Nice… » (1987).
A second educational project is underway in collaboration with Villa Arson, France’s national arts academy. Students will conduct a research project, the result of which will be a work of appropriation or reinvention of gestures, actions or performances shown in the French Riviera between 1947 and 1977. The project invites students to revive and explore a series of moments of dazzling brilliance that took place in the region.
This partnership continues on from the research conducted from 2007 to 2012 by Villa Arson on the history of performance on the Côte d’Azur between 1951 and the present day. The outcome of this investigation and information-gathering exercise is an on-line resource containing the most exhaustive collection of data possible on the subject.
performance-art.fr - www.villa-arson.org
Work on display :
Soudain l’été dernier [Suddenly Last Summer], 1963
126 x 227 x 58 cm
3D, Assemblage. Acrylic paint on canvas, photograph, straw hat, towel. Purchased by the State 1968, attributed in 1976
Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne/centre de création industrielle
Inv. : AM 1976-1010 © Centre Pompidou, MNAMCCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP /
© ADAGP, Paris, 2017
* The title of the exhibition is a direct reference to the eponymous film by Jean Vigo and Boris Kaufman, a remarkable ‘documented point of view’ on the modernisation of Nice at the turn of the thirties.