Call for Papers

Contemporary Art and the French Riviera: An experimental territory, 1951-2011

International Conference, Valrose Campus of the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis and at the national centre of contemporary art at the Villa Arson, France

September 29 – October 1, 2011

The full call for papers can be downloaded from here (pdf).


The international conference ‘Contemporary Art and the French Riviera: An experimental territory, 1951-2011’ sets out to launch and a reflection on contemporary art in a given territory, i.e. the French Riviera, from the end of the Second World War to nowadays. The goal is to understand for what reasons the French Riviera has been for the last 60 years an extraordinary laboratory which has been ceaselessly  producing and welcoming new artists. What is expected from the papers and plenary sessions is a discussion going beyond the usual temporary or generic landmarks in order to describe and dissect the panorama of an artistic production placed under the sign of experimentation.

This conference is organized in the framework of the exceptional exhibition ‘Contemporary Art and the French Riviera: An experimental territory, 1951-2011’ which is curated by the 20th-century national museums of the Alpes-Maritimes, by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice, by the Jean Cocteau Museum of Menton, by the Château de Villeneuve, by the Emile Hugues Foundation of Vence and by the national centre of contemporary art of the Villa Arson.


Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Cocteau, Signac, Bonnard, Dufy or Léger and Dubuffet are so many key artists of the first half of the twentieth century whose names still produce a reverberating echo in the French Riviera which has been celebrated by art historian André Chastel as “the great workshop of modern art”. This history has been duly recorded by some thirty museums or cultural organisations in the form of an exhibition held in 1997 and a catalogue, La Côte d’Azur et la modernité, which continues to be a reference in the field. From June to November 2011, some thirty cultural organizations (museums, art centres, art schools, foundations and galleries) will present the continuation to this history through the works of more than 200 artists. This contemporary chapter starts in 1951 through the impetus given by a group of young artists from the “Internationale Lettriste” after the projection of Isidore Isou’s Traité de bave et d’éternité in the context of the Cannes festival. After that came the Nouveau Réalisme, then Fluxus and La Cédille qui sourit in Villefranche between 1965 and 1968, and also numerous other artists thanks to whom the French Riviera has become an extraordinary territory in terms of artistic exeperimentation. Several dozens artists  (such as Raymond Hains, Robert Filliou, George Brecht, Arman, Ben, Claude Viallat, Noël Dolla, Eric Duyckaerts, Jean-Luc Verna, Philippe Ramette, Pascal Pinaud, Arnaud Maguet, Céleste Boursier-Mougenot and many others) have thus built their work in, around or about the French Riviera – and they continue to do so.


The international and interdisciplinary conference constitutes then another high point of this cultural manifestation. Trying to broaden the usual aesthetic categories, this conference will seek to study thoroughly the question of artistic experimentation in the context of the French Riviera and from a historical, sociological and anthropological perspective. The various axes of reflection and interventions will favour a cross-disciplinary approach and take into account both the national and international contexts to tackle the main issues of experimental art in the French Mediterranean environment.

Axis 1 : Cultural belonging and identity
The scholars are invited to question the relevance of a possible cultural identity of this territory, its hypothetical specificities and the ambivalent notion of belonging. The same question could be raised and tackled in the context of other territories of experimentation.

Axis 2 : Institutions, structures and networks of diffusion
This axis will cover the development of the structures of artistic diffusion and will deal with the ways in which a generation of artists managed to conquer the territory of the French Riviera independently of any institution.

Axis 3 : Practices of/and experimentations
This axis will encourage discussions of several aspects highlighted in the manifestation ‘L’Art contemporain et la Côte d’Azur’ : the notions of attitude art, of the art of gesture, of sound practices, of self-referentiality, of figuration or self-representation. Il can also include problems of experimentation in the fields of town planning, architecture, music, dance drama and poetry at the same time in the same place.

Axis 4 : Transmission and reception
What could be studied in the framework of this axis is the question of the legacy of the avantgardes, of the possible kinship with the following generations, and of the reception of the various forms of contemporary art in this specific territory.

Paper Proposals

Paper proposals (1500 characters maximum in French, English or Italian) should be sent with a summary (from 250 to 300 words), a bibliography and a short biographical note should be sent before March 31, 2011 to Diane Pigeau at They will be examined anonymously by a committee including university teachers, museum curators, art commissioners, critics and art historians.

The participants will be informed of the committee’s decisions at the end of the month of April. A publication of the acts (with an editorial board) is also planned.

In addition to the various papers, the final programme will also include plenary sessions with such leading figures of contemporary art as Christophe Kihm, Laurent Jeanpierre and Denys Riout – also artists.

Contact: Diane Pigeau,
Deadline: March 31, 2011