Brimming with Belle Époque grandeur, Nice has been a desirable destination for the upper classes for centuries. Now much more suited to the masses too, it boasts modern areas that contrast wonderfully with the Old Harbour and a world-class range of art galleries.
These art museums are the focal point for this particular article and a key reason why some people head to this part of the French Riviera. Many famous faces have spent time here in the past and now their works hang in the walls of these fascinating galleries.
Musée Marc Chagall
Close to the Musée Matisse, you’ll find this fantastic gallery dedicated to Modernist Marc Chagall. Although he never lived in Nice, Chagall spent the final years of his life in the nearby town of Saint Paul de Vence. Therefore, many of his works can be seen along the Cote d'Azur, cropping up in random places like winery gardens and harbourside restaurants.
He was very particular about how he wanted everything to be displayed and, even in death, had a significant influence over the design and layout of this museum. He even dictated the exact location where each painting should be hung. This, the largest public collection of his labours, includes his series of 17 biblical messages and other religious works, some of which highlight the various materials on which he liked to paint.
Musée Marc Chagall is closed on Tuesdays and entry will set you back €8, with an extra charge of €2 whenever there is a temporary exhibition taking place. It is,however, free on the first Sunday of every month.
One of many famous artists to live in Nice, Henri Matisse travelled here in 1917 in an attempt to cure his bronchitis and ended up staying for more than 20 years. Although his initial time in Nice left him confined to his hotel room (which he captured on canvass numerous times) because of constant rain, once the sun came out, his mind was made up and he went on to enjoy a successful and happy stay in Nice.
This gallery created in his honour showcases a wide range of his works,including sculptures and prints alongside the paintings. It details the transformations made throughout his career, most noticeably a switch to a more relaxed style once he settled in the city. Sadly, English descriptions are quite sparse, but you can book a guided tour in English if you wish.
Again, please note, the museum is closed on Tuesdays. A single adult ticket is €10 but, and this is definitely the best option if you plan to visit more than one attraction, you can purchase a €20 pass that allow sentrance to all 14 municipal museums in the city over a seven-day period.
Musée d’art Moderneet d’art Contemporain (MAMAC)
Nice found itself at the centre of the Modern Art movement during the 60s and 70s and still helps to create artists from this school of thought today. The museum displays a variety of pieces from this period,ranging from European and American Realism to Fluxus. In fact, even just walking around the city streets, you can see wonderful installations like Max Cartier’s giant stone man at the airport and ‘Neuf Lignes Obliques’, a piece by Bernar Venet found along the Promenade des Anglais.
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art hosts creations from the names mentioned above and many more besides. Well-known French artist Yves Klein has a large numberof works on display here, including his own room which features some of the blue monochrome pieces. The gallery is closed on Mondays, costs €10 per adult and is also included on the seven-day museum pass mentioned above.
Musée Internationald’Art Naïf Anatole Jakovsky
Situated inside the beautiful Chateau Sainte Hélène, the former home of perfume entrepreneur François Coty, the Museum of Naïve Art offers something different to anyone visiting Nice. Even keen art lovers may not know about this form of expression, which is created by people who have not trained to be artists and who are not known at the time. It often includes simple ideas and techniques taken spontaneously from the mind of the artist.
The gallery is largely made up of pieces donated by former art critic Anatole Jakovsky and his wife Renée, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The exhibits range from the 18th century to today and were produced all over the world. It’s closed every Tuesday and tickets cost €6 per adult.