At the Musée International d’Art Naïf in Nice, lurking in lush gardens on the hill behind the Radisson Hotel, the big free-hanging canvas painting Tempête à Nice (above) by local artist Jonathon Brown has become one of the public’s favourites. So now that the City of Nice is set on the long, slightly unlikely, campaign towards persuading UNESCO to list the Promenade des Anglais and the Baie des Anges as a World Heritage Site, it’s maybe not surprising that they have asked the Scotsman back to contribute to various events focussed on the city’s most famous aspect.
Jonathon created Tempête à Nice while he was artist-in-residence at the museum in 2010, and was inspired partly by the terrible storms at that time and by Matisse’s picture of the same name. This time his residency, which began on May 13th, 2015, involves the creation of two vast murals in the upstairs gallery – each about twenty metres long, to be devoted to a theme celebrating the Prom and the bay. Work will progress until June 12th when there will be a vernissage in the evening and a viewing of the special exhibition elsewhere in the museum, on the same theme. Jonathon told the Reporter earlier in the month: “I haven’t yet decided quite what to do. Frédéric Lanovsky is doing some colourful sculpted Promenaders, so I’m going to work in black-and-white, which I love. The two walls face each other, rather the way the Prom faces the sea, so there’s an idea there. And I can sense that there’s some sort of confrontation of the materialistic Prom and the natural beauty of the bay. Negresco meets Neptune? I’ll probably gaze at the walls for two days before starting – but I have to start by May 16th, because that’s the Nuit européenne des Musées. People will mill around and not be too happy with all that blank space.”
Even more extraordinary is the fate of this “happening”: the exhibition ends on October 4th, 2015, and the murals, protected by a special enduis, will be painted over, never to be seen again till some curious curator decides to reveal them afresh. “It all feels like a Sixties happening, really,” added Jonathon. “Ephemeral, like the light glancing on the sea. But then in October I have another plan for the gardens of the museum, where I shall build a sculpture of the Prom. Watch that space!”
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