von Mark Burrows

In a small beach-side town where the queues for the outdoor showers are longer than the entrances to some major exhibitions I have visited, the simple life of the south of France was an interesting place to start for my little discovery of art in an area of France famous for its film festival, wine and the high-life. Ste. Croix boasts a number of camp-sites all close to the beach. Ours was filled with small, green wooden chalets with a veranda much smarter than those of the stereo-typical banjo playing shacks of America that I pictured before I arrived there. This small area of France is really the simple-life. A typical day is spent on the beach.
A typical night is spent on the beach – everything is on the beach. If it`s not on the beach, then its up the hill which surrounds it and offers shade under the large pine trees, the ones which often catch fire from discarded cigarettes. Therefore, in a place where tourists, the majority of which are French, would prefer to spend their nights playing beach football using their flip-flops as goal-posts, and then light small fires on the dark beach playing their guitars, than pose in the over-priced restaurants of the more famous resorts of the south of France, it can be of no surprise to find no evidence of art there at all. Surely some tourists would love to take home a small water-colour of Ste. Croix and admire it over the winter bringing back happy memories of the relaxing time they had there – I know I would, but luckily I can create my own from the small sketches I made on that beach.
The question is then, why is there no art in Ste. Croix? Is it because most of the holiday-makers are too local, and can visit Ste. Croix as often as they like, so they do not need that painted reminder hung up in their lounges? In a busy city, where most of La Croisette beach is owned by the posh hotels and restaurants, and costs a small fortune per day to have the privilege of bathing there, it is of no surprise that art will be found all over Cannes without having to search for it. The reason is, of course, money. Take a leisurely walk down the main shopping street, Rue d`Antibes, and you will discover several small art shops selling mainly typical Provençal scenes of sun-flower and lavender fields, vineyards and run-down barns in fields – all displayed in expensive-looking frames. At night, you will find amongst the craft sellers and portrait artists in the flower-market, easels filled with canvases of the same Provençal scenes and un-framed water-colours of all sizes of various different scenes including those of Cannes and seascapes. This diverse style and presentation of art caters for the diverse tourism of Cannes. There is something for everyone, expensive art for the beach-paying rich, and water-colours of different scenes of which to remember your holiday by for the on-a-budget tourist like my wife and I. However, in comparing those water-colours to the standards of the canvases, I can also see the diverse standards of art in which tourists are subjected to. It is true to think that on holiday one would buy a painting of your favourite place because it is simply – of your favourite place.
The standard of the painting may never be questioned because every time you admire it in your lounge on those cold winter nights back at home, all you see is memories of your holiday. The question is therefore, does it matter if poor standards of art are sold, if the subject-matter fits in the place in which it is sold? If an out-of-perspective seascape was displayed, un-framed, in an art shop where I live in England, it would not get a second look. The second question is: does art exist, which can be admired equally by the local and tourist alike? This answer is described using two of my favourite things in life: art and wine. Art-et-Vin happens every year in the months of July and August in some of the independent wineries of the country of Var, Provençe. We discovered Art-et-Vin purely by accident two years ago when we were wine tasting in the area. I love the whole process; arriving through the grand gates of the entrance, driving down the dusty orange track lined either side by the luscious green vines dancing in the wind, and arriving at the blue, shuttered windows of the chateau with a great sense of excitement. Upon entering the chateau, you immediately are surprised with easels full of paintings everywhere. That year I visited five such vinyards in the same day and was impressed with the diverse subject-matter on display. Some display the typical Provençal scenes, one displayed old-fashioned sea-scapes. Looking through this year`s brochure you can see the diverse subject-matter of the paintings exhibited – a nice purple lavender scene featuring a large tree and run-down barn by Luc LePlae, to my favourite, a brightly painted female figure, using pinks, reds and oranges which really looks electric by Marie-Noelle Deletoille. Art-et-Vin is a fine example of art representing the south of France which can offer something else to tourists like myself taking part in the novelty of wine-tasting and also adds an exciting date to the calendars of the locals who visit these vinyards frequently to stock up their supplies. As we have discovered, tourism affects art in many different ways. It affects the standards of the art we chose to purchase, and the standards of art presented for us. Why then, do exhibitions such as Art-et-Vin have such a good standard of art? They could easily sell those mass-produced seascape prints cheaply to tourists who may have visited one too many vinyards on their tour, and not spitted out once! How does tourism affect art?
See www.art-et-vin.com – or if you are in the Var area visit the local tourist office. They have a small brochure displaying the names and addresses of the vineyards taking part, and have small descriptions about each artist and a colour photo of one of their pictures.