The Aimé and Marguerite Maeght Foundation, opened in 1964, is a wonderful modern art museum in beautifully-designed buildings in peaceful and meditative surroundings at St. Paul de Vence in the hills above Nice.
Aimé Maeght was a renowned art dealer and publisher living in Paris. It was the cubist artist, Georges Braque who suggested that the couple built an artistic foundation. In 1960 they visited Miro’s studio in Palma, Mallorca, and took an instant liking to the design, which was by Josep-Lluis Sert, a Catalan Modernist who came to prominence in the 1930s.
The Maeghts wanted a contemporary, functional design to house the art collection, and as nature lovers, they also wanted the foundation to be integrated into a large, Mediterranean garden. Thus Sert had to adapt a functional building to its natural landscape, “installing a museum inside Nature” as he put it. His overall design was a series of inter-connected, one- to three- storey buildings that respected the slope of the land and which were set comfortably amongst the pine trees. The different roof shapes, levels of rooms and terraces, and the combination of materials (concrete and pink hand-thrown bricks) give variety for the eye.
Sert tamed and harnessed the Mediterranean light with quadrantal cylinder windows. Their parabolic curve traps and transmits the even and constant light directly on to the exhibition walls at the height of the paintings. In addition, several walls open to the outdoors, overlooking the sculpture gardens, terraces, tiled pools and woods.
Artists worked in close collaboration with the architect, creating some large works that integrate naturally with the building and the environment. There is a Giacometti courtyard, a ceramic and sculptural labyrinth by Miro (top), wall mosaics by Chagall, and stained-glass windows by Braque. The Giacometti Courtyard contains slender bronze figures such as l’Homme qui Marche 1 (1960).