VILLA NOAILLES

Once you’ve been to the Villa Noailles, you begin to nurture a fantasy of complicity and collusion. You hope to return.  You strive to drop the Noailles, and call the place simply the Villa.

Once you’ve been to the Villa Noailles, you begin to nurture a fantasy of complicity and collusion. You hope to return.  You strive to drop the Noailles, and call the place simply the Villa. The Villa, is in the know; you want it in your network. The Villa is a purveyor of discriminating taste and emergent talent. It is a platform that promises an encounter with salient contemporaneity in the realm of architecture, fashion, photography and design. The Villa seeks out new accomplices for future impact and stages events around their imminent rise.  It is a curious and seductive place. Rarely does a cultural venue so deliberately ensconced in the sensibilities of the Now manifest such careful sympathies in establishing a bond with the Then.

The backstory goes something like this. In 1924 Charles and Marie Laure de Noailles, voracious collectors and pioneering art patrons, commissioned the architect.

Robert Mallet-Stevens to build the Villa Noailles in Hyères on the French Riviera. They had mused over design proposals from Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, but chose Mallet Stevens for his crisp geometry, concrete construction, terraces and hanging gardens. It would be the architect’s first realized project, completed in three years. The Armenian artist Gabriel Guévréjian designed an adjacent cubist garden.

For the next two decades the Villa served as the material fulcrum of European Avant Garde, and the trove of illustrious visitors and friends amassed by Charles and Marie Laure is astounding. Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Joan Miro, Paul Vera, Jean Prouve, Marcel Breuer, and Eileen Gray all spent time living or working at the Villa. The Noailles supported film projects by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel. Man Ray’s film Les Mystères du Château de Dé features the Villa prominently. And they commissioned works by Balthus, Giacometti, Brâncuşi, and Dora Maar.

Then the denouement. In 1940 the villa, occupied by the Italian Army, is turned into a hospital. From 1947 until 1970, the villa was the summer residence of Marie-Laure. She died in 1970, and the house was purchased by the city of Hyères in 1973. Charles de Noailles died in 1981.

Today’s revived Villa, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Blanc, is the logical extension of the original summer retreat, where encounters with the cultural vanguard are intensified. In its current form, the Villa provides space for creation, momentum and play. Home to the annual Design Parade, the Festival International de Mode et de Photographie, leading architecture and photography exhibits, workshops, conferences, the Villa is gaining significant force as an internationally resource for cultural substance, providing multiple occasions for a worthy sojourn to the South of France.

There is also a residency program. In a wing of the Villa called diminutively “the petit villa”, curated guests stay in four rooms independently appointed by François Azambourg, Florence Doléac, David Dubois and Bless.

At the Villa programs are updated, events staged, the site expands and contracts, breaths.  Here the contemporary is juxtaposed against the historical narrative, a permanent collection of artifacts and works that represents the treasure troves of distinguished lifetime. However briefly, the visitor joins the alliance with the distinctive past as well as the imminent future.

 – Christopher Reznich