Interview with Martine Assouline & Ségolène Cazenave Manara.
Once upon a time in Monaco, the jewel of the Côte d’Azur...
“To reveal the multiple and little-known identities of Monaco.” Such is the cornerstone of the book Monte-Carlo, by Ségolène Cazenave Manara, published by Assouline and with a foreword by H.S.H. Prince Albert II. A book in which photography is given pride of place, with exceptional images taken from the archives of the Prince’s Palace and the impressive photographic collection at Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer. A formidable piece of research and composition which shows us a Monaco that is at once glittering and full of surprises, glamorous and secret, elegant and warm.
What inspired you to write this book?
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: As part of their Travel From Home collection, I talked with Martine and Prosper Assouline about producing a book about Monaco. There were rich photographic resources available. Monaco is a location with many facets and has inspired many wonderful images, recognised by people around the world. We wanted to share them and reveal the multiple identities of this city.
Monte Carlo, by Ségolène Cazenave Manara, published by Assouline. Publication date: 16 March 2023. Price: €105 ©Assouline
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: The idea was to “mix up” different periods by continuously moving between past and present in order to gradually reveal what makes Monaco Monaco. Therefore, we explore everyday life but also the more exceptional aspects of life we can see in Monaco. The city, the landscapes, the people who live there, the stars who pass through, the culture... The aim was to create an authentic panorama of what this place is. Beyond the cliché of its glittering image, Monaco has a strong identity, with a rich history and exciting traditions. While also being a town very much looking towards the future.
Photo: The promenade alongside the beach, Monaco, 1974. ©Assouline
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: The first thing to do was to get the backing of the Prince’s Palace. Obviously it was very important to have the agreement of H.S.H. Prince Albert II. Then I read. A lot. I spoke with many people. And of course, I did research in archives, at the Palace, the Institut audiovisuel de Monaco and Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, whose photographic department is staggering. Tens of thousands of photos. You can find the entire history of the 20th century and more!
Photo: The Saurer-Lürssen speedboat speeds past the facade of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, 1912.
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: There was something I found deeply moving: the link established by the royal family between the Palace and the development of arts and culture in Monaco. Perpetual support to artists and creation. But discreet support, almost modest. And this in every period of the principality’s history.
Photo: Princess Grace at the helm of a sailing boat. ©Assouline
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: It is an intense dialogue that we can notice in particular with the beginnings of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, created in 1863. A real gamble... and a real stroke of genius! In a very short amount of time, Monaco became somewhere that attracted artists. During the heyday of Serge de Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the whole world rubbed shoulders in Monaco. For example, when you consider the première of Le Spectre de la rose, in April 1911, at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, with Vaslav Nijinsky. There was Picasso who painted the curtains, Cocteau who illustrated the programme, Chanel who dressed the dancers, Man Ray taking photographs. It was also in Monte-Carlo that Colette created L’Enfant et les sortilèges with Maurice Ravel in 1925. The 1920s and 1930s were an incredible creative whirlwind! And this dialogue continues today, like the work accomplished by the Nouveau Musée national de Monaco [ed. Villa Sauber and Villa Paloma], which by working with leading contemporary artists demonstrates the relevance of its immense collection.
Photo: Detail from a mosaic designed by Emmanuel Cavaillé-Coll at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. ©Assouline
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: From what I have read and understood, to them Monaco’s appeal was its laid-back way of life. It was a sort of refuge, where they could find themselves and create. Either because they were surrounded by other artists and therefore felt inspired by this incredible emulation. Or, on the contrary, because they found there the calm and tranquillity they needed. Which was the case for Colette, as she told Prince Rainier about her stays at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo.
Photo: Sammy Davis Jr. in front of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: Yes, an incredibly inspiring place, and on an eminently “dramatic” scale. As demonstrated by the number of films that have been made here. The Red Shoes or To Catch A Thief by Alfred Hitchcock. For artists, it’s obviously wonderful. In Monaco, you never know what is going to happen. Like the crazy evening that Khalid El-Hajraoui, Head Barman at Le Bar Américain, told me about. It was in the summer of 2015, during the Monte-Carlo Summer Festival, and Lady Gaga’s manager called him to ask if they could do an impromptu concert at the bar the next day, after their show at the Sporting Monte-Carlo. It was totally unplanned, the bar prepared for the concert in just a few hours. That’s Monaco too!
Photo: Actor Alain Delon in Monaco, 1964.
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: There are so many! I love the one of H.S.H. Princess Grace leaving the Beach Club with a young Prince Albert. For me this shows a more private Monaco, very simple and natural. I also really like the shot of Rudolf Nureyev emerging from the water in the swimming pool, also at the Beach Club. It is funny to see him in this place that, while it has obviously been modernised, hasn’t really changed at all. And I’m particularly fond of a photo of Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis exchanging a kiss during New Year celebrations at the Sporting d’Hiver in 1966. But there is also the photo of Frank Sinatra at the Monaco Red Cross Gala in 1980. Or the one of Cary Grant in 1957 on board the Christina, Aristotle Onassis’s yacht.
Photo: Princess Grace and Prince Albert II at the Monte-Carlo Beach.
Ségolène Cazenave Manara: I love Le Bar Américain! For all the unexpected things that take place there. I also recently discovered the Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, a restaurant by Yannick Alléno at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. It is delicious, simple and sophisticated all at the same time. I also love going swimming early in the morning, in spring, when the Olympic pool at the Beach Club at the Monte-Carlo Beach opens. With the hill, the Mediterranean alongside... Or simply walking, again early in the morning, on the sea wall at Port Hercules, when Monaco is still sleeping. You feel so close to nature. It’s wonderful.
Photo: The Chanel Cruise collection 2023, presented at the Monte-Carlo Beach. ©Assouline
3 questions to the editor Martine Assouline:
All our books talk about fashion, art, travel and design. We founded Assouline with the idea of combining culture and luxury. We want to show the value of beauty: beauty is essential to life. And we want to stimulate the emotions of our readers, move them.
Monaco continues to be a dream destination for billionaires, athletes, artists and high society. It is very much linked to the image of Grace Kelly and this period, a period from which such wonderful pictures remain. Photos of a beautiful family and an exquisite international crowd. I like doing research and discovering images from the past and present that reflect the best of Monaco.
I know Monaco very well, so it’s difficult to surprise me! Above all we wanted to show the city in its best light. While today it is very much known for its business, its radiant sunshine and its international jet set, glamour is still a part of its DNA and attracts a lot of people.