Bonjour, tout le monde!
So I’m abroad this fall on the France Semester, in which I’m living and studying in Rouen (1.5 hours North of Paris, capital of Normandy, where Joan of Arc was burned and Victor Hugo called home). Despite the trips that the program mandates, there are enough weekends to do some of our own exploring.
For me, à la grâce of one of St. Lawrence’s travel enrichment grants, I was able to spend a weekend in the Côte d’Azur of France, in the city of Nice. I was there to take a culinary class and conduct research on the regional gastronomy, but I also had lots of time to enjoy the beach and explore the city. The Roman roots of the city are tinged with today’s youth with bars and nightclubs, though there are several museums that honor art, history and tradition. I happened to visit the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, or MAMAC during my weekend.
The museum was opened in 1990 and pays homage to 20th century contemporary art : Nouveau Realism, Pop Art, Minimalism, Abstraction, Avant-garde and more. Even the building itself was a work of art, and the rooftops were accessible to visit and find a spectacular perspective of Nice.
One of the temporary exhibitions was called “La couleur en avant” and displayed works of luscious color use to engage the senses. I was very excited to see some of the compositions of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso up close in that exhibit. The permanent collections include that of Niki de Saint Phalle, Sol Lewitt, Claude Viallat, Arman, Alain Jacquet and significant donations from Yves Klein. An artist who really interested me was Benjamin Vautier, or Ben, as he is known in le monde d’art.
Ben is a member of the group Fluxus, which comes from the Latin word “to flow”, and is noted for intermedia artwork. Ben was born in Italy but lives and works in Nice, where he has become known for his performances, installations and paintings since the 1960’s. He also has a permanent exhibition in the MAMAC, called Je cherche la vérité… — I Look for the Truth. Essentially it was this giant interactive box of signs and objects printed with Ben’s signature manuscript in neon and clashing colors, begging the viewer to question existence (and other less enigmatic ideas).