Public sculpture has a history as long as history itself. Roman statues are still fished out from the ground today and Greek relics are dredged up from the sea with such regularity that it’s obvious there were a lot of them about thousands of years ago. Time did not dull the appetite for kings on horse, plinth or podium. A statue that has even lost its head or arms can still attract the admiration of millions.
Sculpture is an ambient part of the daily lives of a city and Monaco has a forward position in bringing works into its environment to decorate and enhance itself.
Who can forget the cheeky windmills design by Eva Dmitrenko that SMB spread around Monaco. Who hasn’t taken a selfie or at least wanted to, in front of Nall Hollis’ ‘Peace Frame.’ Have you never been hypnotised by the figures climbing up the fountain at the Place de Moulins?
During Monaco Art Week, the Artcurial auction house put on the second Monaco Sculptures exhibition that brought an exciting collection of modern sculpture to Monaco and sprinkled it around the city’s glamorous settings with the final denouement being an auction alongside luxuries like classic cars, watches and other objects of desire.
The auction held on July 22 saw works from the likes of Armand, Jean Tinguely, Niki Saint Phalle, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Cesar, Lynn Chadwick and many more. To see them you only had to walk around such delightful locations as The Hermitage, Hotel De Paris, Monte Carlo Beach, Jardin des Speluges, and so on.
While it is true that most of these monumental works would physically not fit in or around most Monaco residents’ apartments or villas, anyone with a few hundred thousand to spare and an estate or two to stock with famous artists’ work, had plenty of opportunity to acquire some eye-popping pieces.
But not all works were 20ft high or for that matter came with a price tag of 200,000+ euros.
Works like Hubert Le Gall’s Aphrodite aux deux Visages could be yours for five figures and fit through your front door. Meanwhile while a large signature piece by the legendary Nikki Saint Phalle might take up and set you back ‘half a bar,’ the steel assembly of yen, euro and dollar symbols by Jacques Villegle carried a reserve of just 8,000 euros.
This was the second edition of this event and provided a good excuse for sculpture lovers to pop on a plane and come down and see some great pieces in situ, while rubbing up against the irresistible temptations of Monaco’s high life. This is sure not to be the last such event and as Monaco Art Week drew to a close we can expect a repeat next year.
But even after these pieces disappear to the museums and estates of their new owners there will remain a wide collection of sculptures that stands year in and year out in Monaco that because of its familiarity is easy to forget.
So next time you pass a Bronze Formula One car, or climbing Nymphs, or see a window on to the hope of a peaceful world, it will be worth taking a pause to give it a second glance because even a pile of black cannonballs can be a source of pleasure if you give them a moment to break through the flash and dazzle of Monaco.