By Tina Isaac
September 06, 2011

Artists and other creative types have been drawn to the Château Lacoste inProvence since the Marquis de Sade was in residence, and the notorious author’slure held fast even as his castle and its surrounding fell into decay. Closerto our times, the Surrealists and Max Ernstgravitated to what was left of this tiny medieval village, and over the decadesan artists’ community has grown up around it.

Since 2002, a cluster of homes bought and gradually restored bythe American expat artist Bernard Pfriem in the Fifties was acquired by theSavannah College of Art and Design, which stepped up renovations, giving ahistoric boulangerie new life as a library (pictured above), and transforming forgotten cellarsinto exhibition spaces. In a separate but complementary effort, over the pastseveral years nonagenarian fashion designer Pierre Cardin has been busyrehabilitating the ruined castle into a center for arts and music and recast anumber of storefronts into shiny galleries.

As a result, Lacoste has risenagain as omething of a private village, with perfectly manicured façadesand cobblestone streets wending their way up to the château and—an anomaly inthese parts—nary a provençal tablecloth or cookie-cutter landscape painting insight.

Instead, a mash-up of student creations and works by establishedartists such as Daniel Adel greet the visitor, and locals know that the lastweek of any academic quarter is a rendezvous for taking in upcoming talent, purchasing works atrock-bottom prices, then enjoying a glass of rosé on the terrace of the Café deFrance overlooking Bonnieux. For more information in English: 00-33-4-90-75-66-34.

Tina Isaac is Travel + Leisure’s Paris correspondent.