Birth of a new scene


An incubator for art of today, the Botox(s) collective has helped spotlight emerging artists, among them youngsters with real promise.

The Côte d’Azur already has its place in art history, having since the 50s nourished the Nice School (even if not all those artists subscribed to membership of that vast hotchpotch), the Nouveaux Réalistes, Fluxus and then the Supports/Surfaces movement that from the 70s liberated canvas from frame. But history is still being made here, by the next generation and the most recent graduates. These last 30 years Villa Arson has played a crucial role in training the actors on this new scene, as is evident by the reputation of Philippe Ramette, Michel Blazy or Jean-Luc Verna. And their successors are already en route, peop­ling the Botox(s) network's exhibitions.

Fertile ground for creativity

Every year some 30 hopefuls graduate from Villa Arson clutching the prestigious art school's diploma. Most then head to the capital, or further afield to more affordable cities such as Bruss­els or Berlin. For those who stay on the Côte d’Azur, La Station plays a vital role. Occupying a rehabilitated wing of what used to be Nice's mun­icipal abattoirs, it comprises 700m² of studios plus a vast exhibition space. Here at least two generations of artists rub shoulders, with more than 10 artists in residence for anything from three months to several years. They pay no rent but contribute skills and energy to a place that is fertile ground for their projects. "We share our experience and materials and we give each other a helping hand, with sculptures for example," explains Aurélien Cornut-Gentille. "The collective is part of my artistic practice but I know some artists are solitary." Since graduating recently he has helped create a collective display case for the MAMAC in Nice, using a sample of the local vegetation. Botox(s) artists' groupings also include Connectif KKF/Keskon Fabrique, a duo that draws inspiration from the street, and the Halle Spada in east Nice, old industrial premises housing some 30 artists' studios.

Feeding galleries

The support of gallerists is vital to these emerging artists. Eva Vautier banks on Villa Arson's talented graduates, such as the meticulous Sandra Lecoq who weaves multicoloured fabrics on walls and spilling over onto the floor, and Gérald Panighi who plays with the contrasts between drawing and text. Maud Barral is particularly fond of the poetic ex-Villa student Eve Pietruschi whose work she displays in a superbly revamped old boat shed on Nice harbour. The Espace à Vendre gallery shows artists such as Karine Rougier, Emmanuel Régent, Jérôme Robbe and the Spada studios' members including Stéphane Steiner, Thierry Lagalla and Florent Mattei. It's far from easy to get a foot in the door of galleries who receive endless solicitations, but belonging to a network does give a helping hand. Botox(s) can be a first step forwards since it facilitates access to people and places. "As artists we have a transverse vision of these on our career paths, different entities that we deal with sooner or later," Cédric Teisseire explains.

A springboard for the capital

Standing out in this collective logic we see art­ists such as Jean-Baptiste Ganne, a La Station facilitator who has worked several times with the Alpes-Maritimes national museums when they were part of the network. The latest example of the collective's impact is unarguably Tatiana Wolska who works at La Station: promoted by Galerie Catherine Issert and Espace à Vendre, this young artist was recently invited, with colleagues Vivien Roubaud and Thomas Turlai, to the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, where they took over the Fondation Pierre Bergé modules under the exhibition curatorship of Villa Arson's director, Eric Mangion. Wolska created an archipelago of forms constructed out of salvaged materials. And that's not all: she has just won the prestigious Grand Prix awarded at the Salon de Montrouge that every year showcases carefully selected artists and plays a major role in identifying talented youngsters.