New NMNM exhibition: ‘Santo Sospir Mauro Restiffe / Jean Cocteau’

An exhibition by Mauro Restiffe exploring the poetic universe of Jean Cocteau during his time in villa Santo Sospir is being presented at the New National Museum of Monaco (NMNM) Villa Sauber until October.

In 1950, after Jean Cocteau had just finished filming Les Enfants Terribles, his friend Francine Weisweiller invited him to spend a few days at her villa at Cap Ferrat.

Seduced by its beauty and magic, Jean Cocteau stayed for 12 years in Santo Sospir, not far from Villefranche-sur-Mer where he lived for a long time in his youth.

Throughout his time at the villa, Cocteau “tattooed” the walls with his signature line drawings. “It was not necessary to dress up the walls,” he said in a 1952 film he made of the villa. “It was necessary to draw on their skin.

Photographer Mauro Restiffe

In 2018, while the villa was in the process of being completely restored, Brazilian photographer Mauro Restiffe was in turn invited to stay at Santo Sospir, which had been well preserved since Cocteau’s departure.

Restiffe produced a series of photographs, which is an extension of his research on architecture, memory and intimacy. Proceeding exclusively from analogue techniques, his prints reveal the traces of a ghostly presence, revisiting one of the favourite themes of Jean Cocteau, who died in 1963.

Presented for the first time, the series entitled ‘Santo Sospir’ explores the poetic universe of Cocteau through the prism of the photographic medium. Inspired by the eminently transgressive dimension of a protean work, the exhibition offers a dialogue between Restiffe’s images and a selection of drawings, paintings, tapestries and films by Cocteau, articulated in chapters revisiting some fundamental themes in his work, such as dreams, eroticism and metamorphosis.

The exhibition is curated by Célia Bernasconi, chief curator of the NMNM. It is accompanied by the book Mauro Restiffe, ‘Santo Sospir’, published in 2021 by Lenz Press and republished in 2023 by the NMNM.

The exhibition is on show until 15th October 2023.


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Photo credit: Manuel Vitali, Government Communication Department