WHERE PI­CASSO LOOMS LARGE

THE WORKS OF THE MAS­TER ARE ON SHOW IN AN OLD QUARRY IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE – WHERE MUCH MORE ART CAN BE FOUND

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Escape - WORDS: ANN RICKARD

Here’s Pi­casso as you’ve never seen him be­fore. So mas­sive you must crane your neck as high as you can to take in the full ex­tent of his prodi­gious works.

Many of his ex­tra­or­di­nary paint­ings, es­pe­cially from the Cu­bism pe­riod which most of us as­so­ciate him with, are de­picted on the sur­face of enor­mous rock faces in a mas­sive dis­used quarry, now called Car­ri­eres des Lu­mieres, in the south of France.

In the heart of the Alpilles, the quarry, where baux­ite was once mined, is now the venue for ex­tra­or­di­nary an­nual mul­ti­me­dia shows, most fea­tur­ing fa­mous artists, from the great Re­nais­sance Mas­ters to the present ex­hi­bi­tion of Pi­casso and the Span­ish Mas­ters.

The un­mis­tak­able art­works are beamed in gi­ant form all over the soar­ing rock sur­faces in­side the quarry, even on the floor. You will never see Pi­casso’s fa­mous paint­ings dis­played with so much drama and power and you will never be able to walk on them else­where. All that, ac­com­pa­nied by dra­matic sur­round-sound mu­sic.

It’s an as­sault on the senses as you wan­der around the mas­sive “gallery’’, star­ing up at the chang­ing pic­tures, lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic. The show runs con­tin­u­ously for about 45 min­utes. Each ex­hi­bi­tion runs for a year. Pi­casso is there un­til Jan­uary.

Pi­casso’s pro­found legacy is found in a num­ber of re­gions of France, ob­vi­ously a coun­try he loved as much as his birth­place of Spain.

Like so many other artists he was drawn to the vi­brant light in the South of France.

The Musee Pi­casso in the re­sort town of An­tibes is sit­u­ated in the old Chateau of Grimaldi over­look­ing the Mediter­ranean and holds a col­lec­tion of paint­ings, draw­ings and sculp­tures from his years on the Cote d’Azure.

But per­haps it is in the small, perched, me­dieval vil­lage of Mou­g­ins – a 15-minute drive from Cannes – where Pi­casso spent the last 12 years of his long life that you will most en­joy the Pi­casso fac­tor.

The vil­lage is so pretty it al­most hurts. Win­ston Churchill, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Edith Piaf and Cather­ine Deneuve are among the many fa­mous names who fell in love with Mou­g­ins. The tiny vil­lage is now packed with art gal­leries pre­sent­ing ev­ery imag­in­able genre, with prices to make the eyes wa­ter and the feet run. From ab­stract in­stal­la­tions to pretty land­scapes, art is dis­played in ev­ery tight al­ley, ev­ery pic­turesque square, ev­ery nar­row cor­ner.

If you are not up to buy­ing a con­tem­po­rary paint­ing at, say, around $350,000, you will most cer­tainly be up to wan­der­ing Mou­g­ins’ flower-filled, nar­row streets, ad­mir­ing the his­toric homes with their pretty door­ways and strik­ing win­dow frames, walk­ing up some of the steep laneways to gaze over the sur­round­ing lush for­est, peer­ing po­litely into the gal­leries (while avoid­ing eye-con­tact with the sales staff) and then sip­ping an aper­i­tif at one of the many invit­ing bars, be­fore a sump­tu­ous din­ner in one of the 50 or more restau­rants.

Mou­g­ins oozes charm and af­flu­ence and has kept the im­print of the past while im­per­cep­ti­bly meld­ing it with the present.

Read more of Ann at www.an­nrickard.com

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