It's been touted as a bulwark to Monte Carlo's abundant bling. Now the Nouveau Musee National de Monaco (NMNM) - Monaco's new national museum - has opened its second gallery.
It has taken two years to transform Villa Paloma, a Belle Epoque home, into a multi-floored exhibition space. It starts its new life in style thanks to its inaugural exhibition 'La Carte d'après Nature', which sees artist Thomas Demand turn curator.
'The more the slightly aloof site of the Villa Paloma took shape, the more necessary it became to invite an outstanding artist, and enable him or her to develop an unusual project,' explains Marie-Claude Beaud who heads up NMNM. The decision to ask an artist of such stature to not only curate, but to do so in a very short space of time was, she admits, a 'colossal wager'.
It's one that has paid off. Named after René Magritte's short-lived art magazine, which featured interconnected pieces of poetry, prose and pictures in the early 1950s, Demand's exhibition is a collation of work produced and lent by 18 artists (including himself), as well as works on loan from galleries the world over, all related in their exploration of Surrealism and nature.
It was, says Beaud, over discussions with Demand about the possibility of his contribution to a group show that the idea of a single guest curator took seed. 'His affinities with artists in the collection such as Luigi Ghirri led us to an obvious conclusion: we had to ask him if he would come up with an inaugural project, and we had to give him the whole of the Villa Paloma. The principle, needless to add, was to let the artist have carte blanche, and see how we could help him in this adventure, because that is precisely what it was.'
Demand chose Magritte as a hook for the show that would transcend historical categorisation and, as its muse, prompt exploration as to why similar thoughts and ideas go through the minds of artists working in disparate locations and indeed eras. 'René Magritte plays the role of a connecting link here in at least two ways,' says Demand. 'He reshuffled the cards with regard to the meaning of representation: "It is not possible to paint a thought; it is only possible to paint the things that were necessary for this thought," he once said, in response to a reporter who asked what he thought when painting his pictures.' And, clarifies Demand, 'I am not Magritte - no one is like him - but I also include my own pictures, because I recognise my ideas in the selected works like distant relatives - which doesn't mean to say that they were the same ideas.'
It's a fitting way of addressing 'art & territory'- the theme around which Villa Paloma's exhibition programme is being built.