Hotels filled with art in The South of France for Art Lovers
1) Hôtel des Templiers
The walls of the Hostellerie des Templiers hotel and restaurant are covered with hundreds of original oil paintings, watercolours and drawings, most of which are landscapes and scenes that are related in some way to Collioure and the surrounding region. The current owner’s grandfather welcomed many famous painters and sculptors here over the years, including Matisse, Picasso and Dufy, who settled their bills with a work of art. Unfortunately, these masterpieces are no longer there, but what remains is first-rate in any event.
2) La Bastide Rose
A treasury of art and memorabilia. Tucked away in an orchard along the meandering River Sorgue, La Bastide Rose is located on an island near a former paddle-wheel mill. Its owner, Poppy Salinger, is the widow of Pierre Salinger, who served as the White House press secretary under US President John F. Kennedy. Pierre Salinger died in 2004 in Le Thor, but his legacy is remembered in a tiny museum at La Bastide Rose. Each room in this boutique hotel mixes antiques with modern comfort and eclectic art. Sculptures dot the garden landscape. Each summer, La Bastide Rose hosts a sculpture exhibition.
3) La Colombe d'Or
A hotel and restaurant with humble beginnings. In 1920, local farmer Paul Roux opened a cafe at the entrance of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. The hotel restaurant soon became the place to be. In the 1920s, it was the favourite restaurant of the American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. It was also here that Zelda threw herself down a flight of stairs one infamous night in 1925, in a fit after Scott flirted with the dancer Isadora Duncan. During World War II, many artists fled to the unoccupied France, which is how they ended up on the French Riviera and in Saint-Paul. They stayed in the rustic inn, which had a few rooms at the time, and paid in kind. This explains why works by Matisse, Picasso and Léger are haphazardly displayed on the walls of the guest rooms and in the dining rooms. The romance of the French actors Yves Montand and Simone Signoret began at La Colombe d’Or. They married two years later, in 1951, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. The owner Paul Roux and the writer Jacques Prévert were their witnesses. La Colombe d’Or was the natural choice for their wedding reception. Roux continued to add to this art collection over the years: outside a monumental mobile by Alexander Calder stands at one end of the swimming pool and Miró, Braque and Chagall also donated works in exchange for a room. The most recent addition is a ceramic work by the Irish artist Sean Scully. The Roux family still owns the hotel.
4) Le WindsoR
To all appearances, Hotel Le WindsoR is just another nice 19th-century building. But once you walk through its doors, plenty of artistic surprises await, starting with what is probably the most excellent art lift on the entire French Riviera. Each room was designed by a different artist. The more traditional rooms feature pastel-coloured frescos of the Mediterranean landscape and coastline while others – the chambres d’artistes – were decorated from top to bottom by artists including Ben (Vautier), Glen Baxter, Claudio Parmiggiani, Claude Viallat and Lawrence Weiner. Finally, the tribute rooms are designed around a work or an artist: Jean Le Gac pays homage to Matisse in the eponymous room, and the hotel also has homages to Robert Indiana, Jan van Eyck, Martial Raysse and Niki de Saint Phalle. Every year, the hotel invites an artist to redo one of the 57 rooms. The Redolfi family, which has owned the hotel for more than 70 years, also hosts an annual art exhibition in the lobby.
5) La Cascade
La Cascade, a former sheepfold, is located far from the maddening crowds of Grasse and Nice, in the lesser- frequented but nonetheless impressive canyon of the Gorges du Loup. The perfect place to unwind and enjoy the art in the guest rooms and breakfast room, in close proximity to nature and near a waterfall. All the work in this bed and breakfast is by one artist: Augustin Hanicotte (1870-1957), the grandfather of one of the very nice owners, is a lesser-known artist. Born in Béthune, near Lille, he lived and worked in Volendam in the Netherlands for several years, where he also got married. He moved to Collioure around 1915, founding a drawing academy for children. His colourful, simple work – portraits, still-lifes and rural scenes – attests to his great passion for ordinary people as they went about their business.
6) Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus
This mansion was converted into a hotel 150 years ago. Since then, plenty of celebrities have spent the night at Nord-Pinus. Besides Fritz Lang, Pablo Picasso, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Charlotte Rampling, the bullfighters were also put up here for the Feria, an annual event in Arles that takes place around Easter and in September. You’ll find lots of large posters for the Feria in Arles and other similar events on the walls of this minimalist chic hotel. Many of them were designed by famous artists. The hotel also displays works by photographers like Peter Lindbergh and Peter Beard. Nord-Pinus is situated in a lively square in central Arles, behind the statue of the writer Frédéric Mistral, who defended and promoted Provençal, the language of Provence.
7) Hôtel des Beaux Arts
The Hôtel des Beaux Arts in Toulouse is a hotel like no other. It is situated around the corner from the city’s art academy and is jam-packed with art, from the lobby right up to the bathroom in your guest room. The hotel has mainly relied on local, contemporary artists to decorate the rooms. Head to the lobby for an overview, although the array is dazzling and a bit overwhelming. Each room has its own identity. A sleek modern room provides the perfect backdrop for the photographer Patrick Bouillaud’s sensual black and white photos, but there are several completely different rooms in the hotel with the painter Marie Bec’s sophisticated portraits, the colourful street art of Reso and the magical realism of Montpellier-based graffiti artist Maye. Here and there, the art verges on kitsch but all in all it is an original art hotel. The excellent restaurant Brasserie Les Beaux-Arts is just around the corner.
Buy the book
The South of France for Art Lovers is one of the spin-off titles of The 500 Hidden Secrets series of essential city guides. This guide focusses on one particular aspect of the region of the South of France.
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