ZAT Paillade Mosson 2013 © ZAT Paillade Mosson 2013 - Marko93

Montpellier: Culture on the corner of every street

Montpellier is a real life-sized museum; between the classic and the modern, culture is everywhere at all times, and most of all in the street. 

zoom in

  • street artists
  • hip-hop dancers
  • music
  • show
  • exhibition
  • workshop
artiste de rue Montpellier © Editions Chabot

First in the street

Today there are dozens of onlookers frantically scratching their heads… "How is that man keeping himself up in the air? ",  a little girl asks her mum, who seems just as astonished as her. "It's magic!", she finally suggests.

Magic, music, dance, theatre... in Montpellier, street artists are part of the landscape.

One pauses, one smiles, one forgets where one is going, for just a few minutes. Then one carries on; it’s a kind of cultural parenthesis. "Come on, clap your hands, ladies and gentlemen, and get closer, we do not bite!'', exclaim those hip-hop dancers, whose dance steps light up the Comédie square.

"Montpellier’s great”, says a delighted visitor, pointing to a human statue, “All the time you come across different things, and often they’re very talented!"

Elsewhere, it's a completely different show that attracts the curious: a painter has installed his spray painted artwork, in the 'rue de la Loge'.

A little bit further on, a small man with an accordion tries to attract the attention of the crowd. Over there, a young girl is charming passers-by with a guitar singing covers of folk classics.

Scenes of life like no others can be found in the centre of Montpellier.

The ZATs (Temporary Artistic Zones) have been celebrating this love of street art for several years, each time in a different area, with the artists always trying to get closer to their potential audience. 

In Montpellier, music is everywhere all the time.

Many bars and venues in the town centre — The Rockstore, The Black Sheep, The Petite Scène, The Black Out, The Pleine Lune, The Inglorious, The Irish Tavern, The Bric à Brac... and in the surrounding villages — The Secret Place, Victoire 2... give concerts large and small, at a corner table or on a bigger stage.

Many do lead to and have led to, new local talent being recognised beyond the Metropolis: The unbeatable Regg'Lyss, Rhinocérose, Yoann Fréget, Panzer Flower and Emilie Simon all hail from Montpellier.

The music resonates at festivals too; thousands of partygoers and music lovers head towards the Hérault coast each year to attend Fiest'à Sète, or the International Guitar Festival of Radio France Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon, or the Thau Festival, or  the ‘Quand Je Pense à Fernande’ festival. Finally with the really big venues, Zenith-South, and the Arena, Montpellier attract the greatest names — Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Scorpions, Bruce Springsteen, Mylène Farmer, David Guetta.. — all came to play for their fans in the Hérault capital. 

In Montpellier, live performance is also everywhere, all the time.

Theatre firstly… Slip into a little 'cafe-theatre' for enjoyment you wouldn’t want to miss.

At the 'Point Com', at 'Kawa Theatre', at the 'Chocolaterie', or at the Comedy du Mas du Pont (at The Crès), you’ll find nuggets of humour — stand-up or light comedy.

Other venues, such as the Théâtre de la Plume, the Gérard-Philippe, the Vista or the Jean-Vilar continue the tradition of local theatres with often astonishing innovations.

Then there’s dance. Montpellier is proud of its status as an international capital of dance.

Through its festival and the annual event of ‘Montpellier Danse’, together with its long term hosting of the ‘Battle of the Year’, which rewards the best hip-hop dancers in the world, the Hérault capital  steps out worldwide. 

Claude Viallat © Editions Chabot

Claude Viallat

In Montpellier, art too is everywhere all the time.

Exhibition spaces abound, and there’s something for everyone. 

The Fabre Museum, one of France’s most visited museums, has made Montpellier renowned all over the world through its retrospectives and its prestigious and amazing pictorial sagas — Caravaggio (2012), Signac (2013), Viallat (2014) Neapolitan Painting (2015) have attracted huge crowds of art lovers and interested visitors to the building’s generous spaces.

And through its permanent collections, a grand sweep of the history of art over five centuries awaits the visitor, with majestic works, from the likes of David Stones to Pierre Soulages (from Aveyron) who said, at the re-opening of the Musée Fabre, "With museums like the one in Montpellier I am truly ‘born to painting’ ".

Maybe the museum will enable future artists to be ‘born to painting’...

Or maybe they will turn towards the 'Espace Saint Ravy or the 'Carré Sainte-Anne', which are dedicated to emerging and contemporary cultures, or towards the 'Panacée', which dares to feature digital works, or then again, to the 'Espace Dominique Bagouet', allocated to regionally funded artists; or indeed the Pavillon Populaire, whose attachment to photography has led to some unforgettable exhibitions; for instance, on that day in February 2014, when Sir Paul McCartney himself came to greet the Montpellier public on the forecourt of the Pavillon.

The author of 'Let It Be' had come on the spur of the moment to visit the exhibition devoted to photographs by his first wife, Linda McCartney — and raised his hand to the sky... as in the poster. 

The city abounds with artists' workshops, mostly to be found down the alleys.

It’s in these little ‘burrows’ that many artists find their inspiration. The 'Artists Workshops' event, organised annually, allows the curious to visit and to discover what’s going on behind the scenes.

Near the Saint-Roch train station, the Hervé Di Rosa workshop is a little gem, with works in progress, brushes, old books, easels, and cans and tubes of paint in marvelous disarray. 

Jean-Paul Bocaj © Editions Chabot

Jean-Paul Bocaj