All that we really need to do to enjoy art 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, is to open the window, as outside is 🖼 the most exquisite work of art of them all: 🌿 Mother Nature, Dame Nature!
It is no wonder why so many 🎨 famous artists have been – and are still are – attracted to our 🏔 alpine scenery: 🍂🍃 the changing seasons, and the play of light on 🏔 mountains, snow, glaciers, water and leaves – magical and inspirational . . .
From the earliest depictions of the expeditions up 🏔 Mont-Blanc, through to 🎨 JMW Turner, Renoir, Cézanne and Hodler, so many artists have been drawn to the majesty of our high peaks, to our valleys, to our mountain lakes, rivers and glaciers. 🌿 Nature and 🎨 art: they go hand-in-hand . . .
Here are some of the 🎨 Romantics’ and Impressionists’ visions of 🏔 Mont-Blanc (Gabriel Loppé, Ange Abrate):
And the ⛪ churches and chapels that abound in our 🏔 majestic mountain valleys are also testament to enduring art complementing nature: with art inside and outside – soaring steeples, frescoes, stained glass window . . .
[ note: you can explore some of the ⛪ Baroque churches and chapels of our mountain valleys on the walking route Sentier du Baroque; see here ]
As well as some 🖼 permanent outdoor exhibitions 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we are treated to 🖼 new and ephemeral outdoor exhibitions across the passing seasons: 📷 photography, 🎨 sculptures, 🖼 canvases . . .
This article explores some of the 🏔 OUTDOOR SPACES au Pays du Mont-Blanc used to showcase this art!
Colour code for listings
Pays du Mont-Blanc
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz & environs) and Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
St Gervais, Saint-Nicolas de Véroce, Bionnassay, Le Fayet & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
All year outdoor art exhibitions in the Chamonix Valley
Les Jardins de Fujiyoshida (Japanese gardens, Chamonix)
Hidden up above the 💎 Espace Tairraz, this is 🌷 a pretty landscaped garden. You’ll come across a sweet statue, created by Japanese sculptor Mr Shôzô Hamada in 1998, to celebrate 10 years of jumelage between Fujiyoshida and Chamonix; the title of the statue is « warashiko », meaning « child ».
Tré-le-Champ monoliths (Tré-le-Champ)
Have you ever been to see the Moaïs-inspired wooden monoliths that look out from Tré-le-Champ? My son discovered them with Cat Kartal on one of her Art & Nature summer workshops, and they have inspired me ever since! The artist is Laurent Reynès (sculptor, artist, painter), and he wanted to put out a strong message to the world as the civil war began in Syria and the Moaïs de bois (2014) are part of an amibitious global work, « Le Poids du Monde »:
He says: « Notre terre est constituée d’ambivalences, faite d’une foule de nuances aboutissant au meilleur et au pire. Le meilleur, je l’exprime dans les installations de la Construction Voyageuse, par les Constructions abstraites, par les Herculéennes, les Aériennes et les Portraits de Ciel. Le pire est dit dans ” le Poids du Monde “. Cette terre est pétrie et modelée de tout ce que l’on ne peut avouer et soutenir. Ces faciès de drame contiennent les déchirements et la misère dont sont victimes une multitude de gens. Ces “ Poids du Monde ” portent les sous-titres de Rwanda, Afghanistan, Colombie, Irak, Palestine, Darfour, Tibet, Venezuela, Paraguay, Haïti, Zaïre . . . et bien d’autres dont on ne connaît pas les noms. C’est ma façon exutoire de prendre part et d’exprimer mon profond désarroi devant la bestialité humaine, la misère des hommes. ” Le Poids du Monde ” est une manière de rendre compte de ces horreurs et atrocités de notre planète . . .
[ ⇒ read more about Laurent Reynès’ art here ]
Laurent used the wood of trunks that had come down in a huge storm in Chamonix that had uprooted many trees, especially in the 🌳 Bois du Bouchet (but some also in Trélechamp).
Here are a couple of photos that I found from 📷 Alain Towner and Laurent Reynès:
Christ-Roi (Le Coupet, Les Houches)
Built by George’s Serraz in 1933, and inaugurated in 1934 to celebrate peace, ⛪ Christ-Roi dominates the Le Coupeau hillside in Les Houches, at an altitude of 1300m! This statue of Christ came to be thanks to l’abbé des Houches, Claude-Marie Delassiat – he dedicated the statue to Pope Pius XI, an amateur alpinist, who often came to the area! It was built at the same time as other monumental sculptures of Christ in the world: Cristo Redentor in Corcovado (Rio, Brazil) or Cristo Re in Garajau, Madeira. And it is now signed up to be on the list of Monuments Historiques here in France!
some facts: it is the second highest concrete statue in France, at 25m high, and built using 500 tons of concrete! (the highest being La Virgine du Mas Rillier in Miribel (L’Ain), at 32,6m in height, and also sculpted by George Serraz. In summertime, there are sometimes masses held outdoors at this statue.
La Poya (Vallorcine) outdoor art
You’ll find wooden scultpures dotted along your path through the hamlet of La Poya and into the woods – the origins of this artwork is the summer art & theatre festival La Nuit des Ours, which has been running for a few years. It is joyous.
All year outdoor art exhibitions in the Pays du Mont-Blanc
PASSY, PLATEAU d’ASSY & PLAINE-JOUX
Passy and Plateau d’Assy are known for their 🎨 art scene, which dates back a century ago, to the age of the tuberculosis sanitoriums! The ⛪️ church, Eglise Notre Dame de Toute Grâce, was built at this time, and the sanitoriums themselves are now regarded as works of art!
Cheminement en bord de l’Arve : parcours de l’eau artistique
As you walk along 💦 the Arve river from Mountain Store, you’ll be rewarded with some sculptures that explore the surrounding nature . . .
[ ⇒ MBFF article here ]
Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce (Plateau d’Assy)
Around the sanitoriums of Plateau d’Assy, family hotels, shops and restaurants opened to accommodate visiting families . . . and the tuberculosis patients and their families needed a church, and hence in 1937, ⛪ Notre-Dame-de-Toute-Grâce, « l’église des malades », was built. This quirky church is well worth a visit. It was made famous by 🎨 the work of several renowned artists: the façade’s mosaic was created by painter and ceramist Fernand Léger; Georges Braque added a bronze tabernacle and Marc Chagall a baptistery.
Plateau d’Assy sanitoriums
In the 1930s, to deal with the thousands of cases of tuberculosis in France, Plateau d’Assy was chosen as the prime location to build 🏥 a dozen sanitoriums. This location in Passy was chosen because of :
- its altitude of between 1000m and 1350m kept it above the fog of the valley;
- the air here was dry and it had a sun-exposed midday orientation;
- temperatures were never extreme;
- it was protected from the wind by the dominant rock faces of the Fiz mountain chain;
- it was in the heart of the forest, with drinking water available
- . . . and – perhaps most importantly – its location was fairly isolated from local inhabitants (to prevent the spread of tuberculosis);
- . . . and yet it was still near a 🚉 train station, for the access of patients . . .
Once the plateau was chosen, prominent architects like Henri Jacques Le Même and Pol Abraham designed the sanitoriums, which would then host thousands of patients with tuburculosis. As tuberculosis affected both rich and poor, there was even a luxury sanitorium reserved for the very wealthy, with suites and fine dining – 🏨 the Grand Hôtel du Mont-Blanc. Famous people who spent time at the sanitoriums include: 🧬 Marie Curie, who died in 1934 at the Sancellemoz sanitorium, and 🎵 Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who recovered from the disease, but whose wife Katya and daughter Ludmila both died from their infection.
Advances in medicine and the development of effective antibiotics in the treatment of tuberculosis rendered these sanitoriums obsolete by the 1960s. Known locally as 🛳 paquebots (large passenger ships), these sanitoriums were then largely converted into: rehabilitation & re-education centres, a holiday centre (the salmon pink Guébriant), and some were converted into apartments. The future for the recently abandoned sanitoriums is uncertain.
[ good to know: you can take a guided visit of some of the sanitoriums with a local guide; see Passy Tourisme for more information ]
Route de la sculpture contemporain (from Passy ⇒ Plaine-Joux)
You’ll also find that 🎨 Plateau d’Assy abounds with sculptures, along the winding road from 💦 the river Arve up to 🏔 Plaine-Joux! In 1973, Passy was part of a huge exhibition: Sculptures en Montagne – Poème dans l’Espace. Inspired by the places and their history, and conceived by the poet Jean-Pierre Lemesle, the project brought together several well-known contemporary artists; from this exhibition, Passy kept 5 sculptures and acquired new ones – in the 1980s, these sculptures were placed at the exit of the A40 motorway and at the contreforts of the Fiz mountain chain. Today, across 12km, you can admire the open air museum of the Passy hillside up to Plaine-Joux.
[ ⇒ for more information and guided tours, see here or here ]
Passerelle Himalayenne (Plateau d’Assy)
I find this 🌉 new suspension bridge in Plateau d’Assy a work of art! It now also has sculptures adorning the entrance!
[ ⇒ read more about the passerelle himalayenne in MBFF article here ]
SAINT-GERVAIS & SAINT-NICOLAS de VEROCE
Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc is an alpine town famous for its 💦 thermal springs, and yet it has also become a 🎨 pioneering contemporary artists’ hub, with its mayor Jean-Marc Peillex backing several innovative projects, many of them outdoor :
- 🎨 2KM3 – street art at this renovated multi-storey car-park (2017), swimming pool frescos, télécabines art and La Poste (2018) / ⇒ see MBFF article here;
- 🎨 Maison Forte de Hautetour – there are sometimes exhibitions outdoors at this exhibition space;
- 🎨 Parc Thermal (Le Fayet) – Plein Air is the new open air museum over the summer months / ⇒ see MBFF article here for more details);
During the summer of 2017, twelve French and international artists transformed all 11 floors – and the façade – of the multi-storey car park in the centre of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains into a unique work of art: 🎨 2KM3, a collaborative street art project giving visitors a contemporary, living artwork, a whole new concept in how to integrate art into urban life!
🎨 2KM3: Acte II – this was the second stage of this wonderful art project . . . this time, the artists tackled the Saint-Gervais swimming pool, the northern façade of La Poste and the télécabines stations at Le Bettex.
[ ⇒ see MBFF article for more photos of 🎨 2KM3 ]
Le Parc Thermal (Le Fayet)
As well as the summertime exhibition Plein Air, there is 🖼 a permanent outdoor exhibition about the history of the thermal baths, located near the duck pond: ©
MEGEVE & PRAZ-sur-ARLY
Megève: an outdoor museum
Megève old town is a museum in itself, with sculptures adorning every square and around many corners . . . the best way to appreciate the art is to just wander . . .
Jardin Alpin (Megève)
The Jardin Alpin, next to the Novotel, is a new exhibition space in Megève, andt here are regular photo exhibitions here.
Mini Golf du Singulier (Praz-sur-Arly)
Praz-sur-Arly regularly has 🖼 an exhibition of outdoor sculptures or photos throughout the town . . . and you’ll find sculptures from pralinois Louis Chabaud (famous for his ” art singulier “) in ⛳️ the mini-golf at Les Belles;
In Praz-sur-Arly, there is also an 🖼 outdoor exhibition with works by Adrianna Wojcik Muffat Jeandet: Culture au Pays du Mont-Blanc: « Adrianna Muffat Jeandet Wojcik est une artiste plasticienne née en Pologne et ayant grandi en France. Son travail explore ses souvenirs de paysages, ses relations étroites avec la montagne, ses mondes intérieurs et diverses facettes de son subconscient. Elle s’est immergée dans le patrimoine photographique pralin et dans l’histoire du tourisme populaire montagnard. ✍️ Dans ses créations contemporaines (dessin, techniques mixtes), l’artiste a imaginé des paysages et a représenté ses acteurs du passé. »
Les Contamines-Montjoie & Notre Dame-de-la-Gorge
Le Jardin de Samivel (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
🖼 Le Jardin de Samivel is an open-air museum, dedicated to Samivel, watercolour painter, poet, romance writer, film-maker, explorer; having visited Les Contamines-Montjoie from a young age, Samivel became very attached to the village and its inhabitants, and he later threw himself into protecting nature, and especially our mountain habitat.
website address: located just behind the church;
Domaine Nordique / Parc de Loisirs du Pontet (Les Contamines-Montjoie)
You’ll always find some photographs adorning the sentiers piétons in the park . . .
Ephemeral outdoor art exhibitions in the Chamonix Valley and au Pays du Mont-Blanc
Here are some 🖼 outdoor exhibitions that come back on an annual basis, every summertime or wintertime . . .
Place de l’Aiguille & outside Office de Tourisme (Chamonix)
There are sometimes photographic exhibitions in these two spaces.
Place du Triangle de l’Amitié (Chamonix)
This square is a space dedicated to the transfrontaliers countries around Mont-Blanc (Switzerland and Italy), and it is used for exhibitions (recently a homage to Roger Frison-Roche, who died 20 years ago, tracing his life and adventures, from the mountains to the burning deserts of the Sahara).
Jardin des Cimes (Plateau d’Assy) – spring ⇒ autumn
The 🌼 Jardin des Cimes in Plateau d’Assy is a magical and innovative alpine garden, with beautifully artistic touches throughtout. It is open from spring until early autumn. It is also a cultural hub, offering workshops and concerts.
price: adults 5€ to 6,50€, children (4 to 16 years) 3€ to 4€, under 4s FREE, and family 14€
good to know: there is a lovely café & restaurant (open to the public, no need to pay garden entrance) – Le Café du Jardin.
[ ⇒ for more information about these lovely alpine gardens, see or more information, see MBFF article here ]
website address: 447 route du Docteur Davy, Plateau d’Assy, 74190, Passy / tel: +33 (0)4 50 21 50 87;
🌼 summer 2021 artists in residence au Jardin des Cimes: Artifex en Horto
Exposition Montagn’Arts (les quais de la Sallanche, SALLANCHES) – July ⇒ September
You can stroll up and down the quais in summertime and enjoy a photographic exhibition . . .
Plein Air : parcours d’art à ciel ouvert (Parc Thermal, Le Fayet, Saint-Gervais) – mid July ⇒ September
The Parc Thermal is a lovely place to escape the summer heat, and even more lovely for a couple of months with the outdoor exhibition Plein Air . . .
« Lumières Saint-Gervais » – end of December – (Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc)
Every year, at the end of December, Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc has ✨ a wonderful light festival, based on the concept of the bigger and more internationally-known annual ✨ « La Fète des Lumières » in Lyon, with some of the same light installations.
Le Plateau de la Croix (Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce)
There are 🖼 regular outdoor exhibitions here . . . this can be enjoyed at the same time as a visit to the beautiful baroque church in this pretty alpine village.
« Nature au Sommet » (Parc de Loisirs du Pontet) – summer exhibition
There is an 🖼 temporary summer exhibition in the Parc de Loisirs du Pontet . . .
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