Miles Davis on the Promenade - Treasures of Provence
Writers & Artists

Miles Davis on the Promenade

Created by the French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, this extraordinary statue stands in front of the entrance of another iconic masterpiece: the Negresco Hotel on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.

Weighing 566 lbs, this 9ft statue is made from polyurethane foam and steel armature, resin inlaid with colourful stones, glass, gold leaf, ceramic tiles and mirrors and finished in bright, primary colours.

Depicted as a portly trumpeter Miles Davis is portrayed in Niki de Saint Phalle’s famous signature style: plump, joyous individuals having a great time.

Niki remembered vividly growing up in a world where she had no heroic figures as point or frame of reference. While living in San Diego in 1998, she considered the world that her great-grandson, Djamal a bi-racial child, was living in. Determined to provide for him the points of reference she never had, she began thinking in terms of a series of heroic Nana-like forms of heroic cultural and social stature.

That same year, wanting to denounce racism, she created her Black Heroes series. She chose prominent and inspiring members of the African-American community related to sports or music such as jazz musicians Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong, performer Josephine Baker, and athletes Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Tony Gwynn.

In 2001, she donated a significant number of her creations to the city of Nice. From 17 March to 27 October 2002 a large retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain. During this period many monumental sculptures from her Black Heroes series along with a number of totems were exhibited in the streets of Nice.

Niki de Saint Phalle was born in October 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris. She was a gifted sculptor, painter and film-maker. Although born in France, she spent decades in New York and California, where she lived out her final years. From the mid-1950s she was part of the Parisian avant-garde and came to prominence alongside the Nouveaux Realistes artists, one of the most important European art movements of Post War area.

Throughout her life, she pursued a passionate and relentless assault against the constraints of conventional society, be they political, sexual, or aesthetic and overtly tackled American issues such as gun control and civil rights in the 60s in her artworks.

She died in May 2002 in San-Diego of pneumonia, her lungs damaged by decades of breathing polyester fibre used in the creation of many of her works.

Miles Davis in Nice

Held annually since 1948, the Nice Jazz Festival on the French Riviera is one of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe and has become one of international significance. Originally held in the Opera and then Albert 1er Gardens, the festival moved to the Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez in 1974 and enjoyed something of a boom as an outdoor festival set amidst ancient olive groves and Roman ruins.

In 2011 Christian Estrosi, then mayor of Nice, moved the festival back down to the city and it now takes place in the centre of the city along the Promenade du Paillon, just next to Place Masséna.

Bands perform on two stages at once and a total of six stages every night for five days. Over 60,000 people come to listen and enjoy the quality of play.

Miles Davis gave his first concert in nearby Juan-les-Pins at La Pinede in 1985. The following year he decided to play at the Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez in Nice and returned there in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1991.

The city of Nice has honoured Miles Davis with a public pathway named after him in the Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez.