Just inland from Nice, France, in perhaps one of the most artistic, storied and cultural rich regions in France outside Paris, the area neighboring the medieval town of Saint Paul de Vence, and within walking distance from the picturesque medieval town, sits the Foundation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght ( Maeght Foundation). Created by its namesake couple Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, (and inspired, so the story goes, by a conversation with their friend artist Georges Braque), the foundation was inaugurated in 1964 to the sounds of performance by Yves Montand and Ella Fitzgerald.
Naturally, the fact that the pair was a very successful art dealer and publisher, collecting and working with the who is who of the art world at the time, names like Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall, certainly must have helped to enlist this already by then very sought after roster artists to join their vision: a meeting place where visitors could connect with art, architecture and nature in new ways.
Nestled on top of a hill, and split into two pavilions, the main building housing the foundation was designed by Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert. Modern in character but in line with Sert’s own carefully developed architectural vocabulary, the building makes several nods to its Mediterranean location, like the use of courtyards, skylights throughout the galleries for natural light in and intricate floor tile work (handmade with Provence’s terracotta). A believer in the integration of art and architecture, Sert’s designs incorporate murals by Marc Chagall, stained glass windows by Miró (a longtime friend) and even a pool designed by Braque.
The Foundation Collection
The foundations collection, one of the largest private collections in Europe, comprises over 13,000 items in a variety of mediums, from both modern and contemporary artists, including works by Wassily Kandinsky, Barbara Hepworth, Fernand Léger, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Eduardo Chillida, Christo, Marco Del Re, Gérard Garouste, Jörg Immendorff, Ellsworth Kelly, Wifredo Lam, Joan Mitchell, Takis and Antoni Tàpies. (From Giacommetti alone the collection has 62 pieces, and over 150 from Miró). Large scale sculptures are one of the collection’s highlights and a rotating selection of these can be found in the surrounding sculpture garden.
Inside the Galleries
Inside, the galleries host both specially curated, temporary exhibits and items from permanent collection. As part of the Maeght’s compound there are also a consecrated chapel (featuring a stained glass window by Braque) , an art library, a gift and book shop, and a cafe. Fulfilling its original goal of being a place where creativity and people could be together, to appreciate art in all its expressions, the center regularly hosts music concerts, talks, dance and theatre performances and other special events.
Today the foundation has become a major stop in the French Riviera cultural circuit, drawing 200,000 visitors each year. Not surprisingly, the Maeght’s whimsical grounds were chosen a few years ago as the setting for one of the high-profile destination series of fashion shows by Louis Vuitton couture, attesting to the enduring and imaginative power of the vision brought forth by the Maeghts, Sert and their talented collaborating artists.
By Paul Clemence, photographer, writer, author, wrote and shot all of the photos in this story.
Featured Photo: Maeght Foundation, architect Josep Lluis Sert. Photo: Paul Clemence