Artists and other creative types have been drawn to the Château Lacoste in
Provence since the Marquis de Sade was in residence, and the notorious author’s
lure held fast even as his castle and its surrounding fell into decay. Closer
to our times, the Surrealists and Max Ernst
gravitated to what was left of this tiny medieval village, and over the decades
an artists’ community has grown up around it.
Since 2002, a cluster of homes bought and gradually restored by the American expat artist Bernard Pfriem in the Fifties was acquired by the Savannah College of Art and Design, which stepped up renovations, giving a historic boulangerie new life as a library (pictured above), and transforming forgotten cellars into exhibition spaces. In a separate but complementary effort, over the past several years nonagenarian fashion designer Pierre Cardin has been busy rehabilitating the ruined castle into a center for arts and music and recast a number of storefronts into shiny galleries.
As a result, Lacoste has risen again as omething of a private village, with perfectly manicured façades and cobblestone streets wending their way up to the château and—an anomaly in these parts—nary a provençal tablecloth or cookie-cutter landscape painting in sight.
Instead, a mash-up of student creations and works by established artists such as Daniel Adel greet the visitor, and locals know that the last week of any academic quarter is a rendezvous for taking in upcoming talent, purchasing works at rock-bottom prices, then enjoying a glass of rosé on the terrace of the Café de France overlooking Bonnieux. For more information in English: 00-33-4-90-75-66-34.
Tina Isaac is Travel + Leisure’s Paris correspondent.