If you find yourself on a yacht—could be yours or a friend’s, doesn’t matter—along the Côte d’Azur this September for the Monaco Yacht Show, consider hitting the mainland for an art break. Monaco and the adjacent French Riviera are home to a number of small museum and gallery gems, especially since many modern masters—like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre Bonnard—flocked to the region for inspiration.
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
This contemporary art museum presents both visual and performance art in two historic villas. The Villa Paloma boasts a terraced garden overlooking Monte Carlo and focuses on performance art, while three kilometers up the road, exhibitions devoted to modern and contemporary Monegasque artists are mounted at the stunning Belle Époque Villa Sauber. The show currently on view in the latter explores the work of little-known Monegasque-Brazilian inventor and artist Hercule Florence (1804–79). Previous exhibitions included retrospectives of British-Nigerian contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare and Russian Socialist painter Erik Bulatov.
Located in the seaside Chateau Grimaldi in the old town of Antibes, this museum is one of the first devoted entirely to Picasso. In fact, in 1946, the artist spent several months using the second floor of this old fortress as his workshop, during which time he painted La Joie de Vivre. In addition to over 60 drawings and paintings by Picasso—many donated by the artist himself—visitors can also discover works by Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung, and Anna-Eva Bergman. The sea-facing terrace of the castle boasts sculptures by Germaine Richier, Joan Miró, Bernard Pagès, Anne and Patrick Poirier.
Matisse and Picasso were always frenemies, hanging around in the same social circles in Paris and New York and arguing about the importance color versus line in painting. So it makes sense that Matisse would also have a museum dedicated to his work in Riviera region, if only not to be outdone by his pal Picasso. Matisse spent the last few decades of his life in the south of France and the Musée Matisse, located in Nice, has one of the largest collections of the his work, many gifted by the artist himself. Its housed in the 17th century Villa des Arènes, which has a recently added modern wing to accommodate the growing collection.
Galerie des Lices
Galerie des Lices opened in St. Tropez in 2006 and has since expanded to include a second tropézian space, as well as locations around the world. It takes as its purview Neo-Pop art, and its Belair space in St. Tropez offers works especially by emerging artists working in hyperrealistic, Neo-Surrealist, and New Realism genres.
Along with Vincent Van Gogh, French painter Pierre Bonnard was one of the leading figures of the Post-Impressionist movement and the founder of the avant garde group Les Nabis. Located in the commune of Le Cannet, just north of Cannes, the Musée Bonnard is the first museum in the world dedicated to the artist’s work—he worked in the area for over 20 years, drawing inspiration from the region’s sunlight and landscapes to create his buoyantly bright paintings.
Read our guide to the top five hotels to stay at during the Monaco Yacht Show.