Nice. Day off.
It's The Edge's birthday today. Well, it's not actually until tomorrow but given that tomorrow night is a school night it was decided that the sensible thing to do was to start now and hopefully wrap things up by lunchtime tomorrow.
The first event on the birthday calendar was a group lunch at La Colombe D'Or in St. Paul de Vence. This is a small hotel and restaurant in a medieval hilltop village outside Nice, which was the centre of activities for many great artists from the turn of the century. Matisse and Picasso lived here periodically, Braque, Leger, Calder were regulars and apparently would settle their bills using art - a claim easily verified by the astonishing art collection which rather casually hangs in the dining room and around the place. There's a pool out the back, above which hangs a huge Calder mobile and on the terrace is a Leger ceramic wall frieze. My favourite part about the place though, is that they are still collecting and installing new work, rather than letting it become a museum or an anachronism. Also out by the pool is a large Sean Scully mural which is new since I was here last a year or two ago.
Coincidentally, this happens to be one of my absolute favourite places on the earth's crust so I was absolutely delighted to receive the invitation to join Edge's birthday bash. There were a couple of dozen of us assembled on the terrace there in the early afternoon sunshine, where we enjoyed a very long and very pleasant lunch. Great food, fun people, interesting conversations, it really was about as perfect an afternoon as I've spent in a long time. As the day wore on, people began to get up and wander, mix and mingle, as you do. I'd noticed a rather striking blonde woman at the next table who seemed to know Bono. She eventually came over to our table and when we got chatting I was rather amazed to discover that she was Yoyo Maeght, director of Fondation Maeght. Just outside the village of St Paul de Vence, Yoyo's grandfather, Aime Maeght, constructed an art gallery to house his family collection. It is also one of my absolute favourites (it's been that sort of day) and regular readers may remember I visited the place just two or three weeks ago. Aime Maeght knew and worked with many of the artists who would hang out at La Colombe D'Or, helping them to produce prints and other works, so became very much a part of the fabric of the work made by these people. We chatted for quite a while and I said how much I loved the Fondation, at which point Yoyo said that if I wanted to come and visit after hours, she'd be delighted to give a tour of the place without all those other visitors being in the way. I was quietly stunned and absolutely delighted, so tomorrow may be the day.
When we finally dragged ourselves away from the perfection of the afternoon, most of the posse was headed for Cannes (or possibly St. Tropez) for a night on the tiles. I had already made plans for the evening so left the company at this point in order to have dinner with friends in the local seaside town of Villefranche. Frankly, I dread to think what they'll be getting up to by now...
Saturday 8th August 2009. Nice. Day off.
Given the state of the walking wounded drifting into our hotel this afternoon, I think I did very well to have dodged the party bullet last night. I haven't really got a sensible word out of anybody yet as to exactly what went on, other than that it 'started with drinks on the terrace of the Carlton and went downhill from there.'
Feeling rather smug at my lack of hangover, I managed a bit of a day off, bar catching up with one or two chores. Email seems to take on monstrous proportions when you're on tour. Every time you turn your back another few dozen mails have come in. It's all I can do to skim through them, marking the important-looking ones to come back to later. Trouble is, 'later' doesn't seem to come often enough to make much of a dent, even in the important ones, so if you've emailed me within the past couple of months then I can only apologise.
In the early evening a couple of us headed back to St. Paul de Vence to take Yoyo Maeght up on her kind offer of an after-hours look around Fondation Maeght. I adore this gallery so the chance to see it privately was thrilling beyond words. Yoyo has a visceral love and passion for the place, the art and the artists who have contributed to its life. She quite literally grew up in the Fondation and can be seen as a little girl in photographs of the artists at work there. The main show currently installed is a retrospective of Miro's work from the family collection. To be completely honest, until now Miro would not have made my personal top ten favourite artists, but Yoyo's insight and the personal knowledge of the artist was transformative. Maeght is a small foundation, not a huge museum or commercial gallery so they have a very personal and highly aesthetically driven approach to showing art. Much of the place is dedicated to a sculpture garden, interspersed with water features of the very best kind (I think my favourite is a shallow pool with mosaic fish on the bottom, created by Georges Braque). I often find that art and nature can be a difficult combination, but they certainly got it right in this place. We just loved it and were deeply grateful to Yoyo for taking the time to let us under the surface.