Look carefully at the photo to see how tiny the people are compared to the artworks.
Look carefully at the photo to see how tiny the people are compared to the artworks.

Mine for art treasures where Picasso looms large

Here's Picasso as you've never seen him before. So massive you must crane your neck as high as you can to take in the full extent of his prodigious works.

Many of his extraordinary paintings, especially from the Cubism period which most of us associate him with, are depicted on the surface of enormous rock faces in a massive disused quarry, now called Carrieres des Lumieres, in the south of France.

In the heart of the Alpilles, the quarry, where bauxite was once mined, is now the venue for extraordinary annual multimedia shows, most featuring famous artists, from the great Renaissance Masters to the present exhibition of Picasso and the Spanish Masters.

The unmistakable artworks are beamed in giant form all over the soaring rock surfaces inside the quarry, even on the floor. You will never see Picasso's famous paintings displayed with so much drama and power and you will never be able to walk on them elsewhere. All that, accompanied by dramatic surround-sound music. It's an assault on the senses as you wander around the massive "gallery'', staring up at the changing pictures, listening to the music. The show runs continuously for about 45 minutes. Each exhibition runs for a year. Picasso is there until January.

Picasso's profound legacy is found in a number of regions of France, obviously a country he loved as much as his birthplace of Spain.

Like so many other artists he was drawn to the vibrant light in the South of France.

The Musee Picasso in the resort town of Antibes is situated in the old Chateau of Grimaldi overlooking the Mediterranean and holds a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures from his years on the Cote d'Azure.


Stroll the lovely laneways in Mougins.
Stroll the lovely laneways in Mougins. Picasa

But perhaps it is in the small, perched, medieval village of Mougins - a 15-minute drive from Cannes - where Picasso spent the last 12 years of his long life that you will most enjoy the Picasso factor.

The village is so pretty it almost hurts. Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor, Edith Piaf and Catherine Deneuve are among the many famous names who fell in love with Mougins.

The tiny village is now packed with art galleries presenting every imaginable genre, with prices to make the eyes water and the feet run. From abstract installations to pretty landscapes, art is displayed in every tight alley, every picturesque square, every narrow corner.

If you are not up to buying a contemporary painting at, say, around $350,000, you will most certainly be up to wandering Mougins' flower-filled, narrow streets, admiring the historic homes with their pretty doorways and striking window frames, walking up some of the steep laneways to gaze over the surrounding lush forest, peering politely into the galleries (while avoiding eye-contact with the sales staff) and then sipping an aperitif at one of the many inviting bars, before a sumptuous dinner in one of the 50 or more restaurants.

Mougins oozes charm and affluence and has kept the imprint of the past while imperceptibly melding it with the present.


Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life in the small, medieval village of Mougins.
Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life in the small, medieval village of Mougins. iStock

Read more of Ann at www.annrickard.com

More to explore

The Carrieres des Lumieres 2019 show has not yet been announced. The quarry/gallery is wheelchair-friendly, open every day, accessible by car or with tour operators from Nimes, Avignon and other smaller towns. It can be cold inside the vast quarry, even on the hottest day. Jackets required.

A 10-minute drive away is Le Bistrot le

Paradou. A set lunch menu includes wine and a bewildering selection of cheeses trolleyed to your table, all presented with big smiles and local knowledge.

In Mougins visit the National Picasso Museum, a former priory of the Abbey of Lerins built in the 16th century. It holds a ceramics collection, surrounded by large-scale murals.

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