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Art Insider… spring/summer 2018

| 06 Jun 2018

Across Europe, from Sweden to the Med, we have a wide choice of new tours for art-lovers, says Louise Tucker, Arts & Culture expert. In order to inform Cox & Kings’ fabulous range of new cultural tours, I’ve made several recce trips to wonderful areas of Europe in recent months. Here are some of the fruits of my research…

Cote d'Azur, France

Côte d’Azur

The palm-lined Promenade des Anglais epitomises Nice and the Côte d’Azur, and the glamour and exoticism it offered to the wealthy English cognoscenti of the Belle Époque. They flocked here to escape the grim winters at home long before Coco Chanel championed the tan and the coast became a magnet for sun-worshippers year round. The beaches and chic seafront bars are as appealing as ever, but inland lies a less discovered area that draws as many artists today as it did when Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau and Henri Matisse came. My guide for a tour of the region was local resident and art lecturer Mary Lynn Riley, who teaches at the Musée Bonnard in Le Cannet and the Espace de l’Art Concret at Mouans-Sartoux.

In the wooded, rugged Var region, sculpture parks owned by the collector Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand and sculptor Bernar Venet use the dramatic landscape to showcase contemporary art. These aren’t usually open to the public, but our tour had special permission to enter. We also saw Espace de l’Art Concret, a gallery in a bright green cube that’s a stark contrast to the triangular fortified castle next door, and which hosts changing exhibitions of art based on form and geometry.

On the coast I enjoyed the Musée Jean Cocteau, and tremendous architecture at Cap Moderne, where, clinging to the edge, are houses by master architects Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray, both only open to visitors by special appointment. Clean lines and austere modern buildings defined the work of Le Corbusier, yet he constructed his own small summer house, Cabanon, in rustic style. Eileen Gray’s white villa E-1027 is exemplary of her pioneeringly modern 1920s design, with an open-plan, light-filled living space furnished in chrome, steel and glass that’s still very fashionable today.

See more here.

Musee Jean Cocteau

Mue Jean Cocteau

Turin    

Once part of French-ruled Savoy, Turin, in Italy’s industrial north, has changed much since the nobility built its beautiful palazzos and piazzas. Those buildings, like the city, are always being reinvented. In the scorching heat of July I was glad to be staying in the cool confines of the NH Piazza Carlina, a converted palazzo with an airy courtyard and roof terrace. The latter was the perfect spot for an iced aperitivo cocktail, whose essential ingredient is usually vermouth, supplied by the region’s many artisan vermouth producers. The museum of the most famous, Martini Rosso, is the Casa Martini, and it has a world-class collection of ancient winemaking artefacts. In its private cellar bar, I learned the secrets of vermouth blending, and how to mix the perfect martini.

Outside the city, the Castello de Rivoli houses contemporary art against a backdrop of delicately frescoed historic rooms. As I walked from one elegant room to the next, I found the radical installations to be provoking, challenging sights. Nearby Alba, set in the beautiful rolling countryside of Langhe, is home to one of the world’s most important white truffle fairs, held on weekends from mid-October to mid-November. I joined a truffle hunter to discover how dogs sniff out the truffles in forests of hazelnut and oak. We were in luck, but the hunter had to be quick to seize the truffle from the dog’s mouth before it disappeared!

Langhe is famed for its wonderful Barolo and Barbaresco red wines, and the landscape is dotted with all styles of wineries. One biodynamic producer explained how they use the natural cycles of the moon and seasons to produce elegant wines. Another highlight was the Chapel of Barolo, painted in bright colours by artists Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett.

See more here.

San Carlo square

San Carlo square

Stockholm

Stockholm may be renowned for its fashionable Scandi design, but I was surprised by the number of smaller museums, showcasing every aspect of culture from dance to film. The Råsunda Filmstaden, one of the world’s first purpose-built film studios, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ingmar Bergmann’s birth this year, with a small exhibition. Most of the studio buildings have been converted for residential use or into artists’ studios, but some of the original buildings remain as they were, including a chalet-style canteen and the viewing room, where actors and crew reviewed the day’s work and watched the latest films from across the world.

The art collector Sven-Harry adopted a more radical approach to preserving his legacy and had a replica of his 18th-century home built on the rooftop of a Stockholm apartment building. As I walked out of the top floor lift into the house, I was transported into a domestic interior fully furnished in late 20th-century style, with antiques, designer rugs and lamps, and the art collection displayed just as Sven-Harry intended. Stepping outside onto the terrace dotted with contemporary sculpture, I was surprised to see that the elegant house’s exterior was fabulously gilded.

See more here.

Stockholm

Stockholm

Venice 

Wading across a flooded St Mark’s Square early on a winter morning, with only a few ducks for company, was an atmospheric moment that epitomised the mystical quality of this city on the water. Visiting artisans whose work continues the traditions developed centuries ago transported me into a timeless Venice that endures even under the waves of tourists that engulf the city in summer.

Sheltering from a downpour at an old palazzo, I was greeted with a scene from the 18th century: ancient hand-turned machines and looms threaded with thousands of bobbins, weaving multicoloured brocades and velvets. The rich fabrics are commissioned by royalty and designers demanding high quality and intricate patterns.

The ancient art of creating handmade Venetian mirrors has remained in one family since an ancestor learnt his trade creating Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors. As I approached their low-level house, only the sound of grinding machines hinted at the workshop within. Two brothers and their children worked on every aspect of the intricate mirrors, carving the shapes, bevelling the edges and engraving images – all by hand.

See more here.

Venetian glass mirror workshop

Venetian glass mirror workshop

For more information about Cox & Kings’ arts and culture tours, see here.



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