“Gambling makes life more intense” — and it also made life a lot more prosperous for Monaco. The quote was from a docudrama about the petite principality and the building of a casino in Monte Carlo 150 years ago. The medieval town and surrounding area was impoverished before Prince Charles III of Monaco decided gambling was their best economic bet. The name Monte Carlo, or Mount Charles, reflects the elevated terrain and the proximity to Italy.
Monaco launched a year-long celebration for its monumental anniversary, with events at home and abroad. “Monte Carlo is the epitome of luxury. It’s known for style, sophistication and architecture, and many architects have left their footprints on Monte Carlo”, said Maguy Maccario Doyle, consul general and director of the Monaco Government Tourist Office. She spoke at a Wednesday event at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise (FIAF) in New York.
The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM) commissioned documentary photographer Gabriele Basilico to convey Monte Carlo in a series of black and white photographs. Those are on display at FIAF through August 23 alongside a wall of colorful Monaco postcards. “The exhibit shows an interesting approach to the principality and the neighborhoods”, noted FIAF’s director of visual arts, Antoine Guerrero.
As an international capital of “sport and spectacle”, Monaco has long attracted high-rollers. Its commemorative programs this year are especially alluring. Last month they turned Casino Square into a tennis court for an exhibition match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. In July they’re hosting a concert featuring rock stars like Rihanna and Elton John. An August exhibit at NYC’s Forbes Gallery will feature photos of celebrities who frequent Monte Carlo.
Monaco was the first to forge the link between gambling, culture and entertainment, and this formula set the stage for other popular gaming destinations. Monaco has also served as the backdrop for 45 Hollywood movies. Memorable films like To Catch a Thief starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, (aka Princess Grace) represent hard acts to follow. Still, Monaco is clearly up to the challenge for Monte Carlo’s 150th anniversary.