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In MASTERS, Suzanne Swarts shares the experiences of her travels to the most beautiful art resorts. In the heart of Provence, half an hour's drive from Aix-en-Provence, lies Château La Coste. At this benevolent "domaine," wine, architecture, gastronomy and hotel management blend flawlessly with the works of luminaries of contemporary art.
Louise Bourgeois, Crouching Spider, 2003 © ADAGP Paris. The Easton Foundation New York, photography: Andrew Pattman

There is something about the south of France. It is absolutely no wonder that countless artists found and still find their way here. After a beautiful drive past fields of lavender and sunflowers and past fields full of almond and olive trees, you arrive at the 600-hectare estate of Château La Coste. There, you first marvel at the 125 acres of vines, but then, just when you think your smile can't get any bigger, you see a pond looming in the distance containing a giant spider by Louise Bourgeois: you have arrived in an artistic Provençal paradise!

In 2001, Irish property developer, hotelier and art collector Paddy McKillen bought the estate and winery, which has existed since 1682. He invited artists and architects from around the world to choose a site and create their artwork. (One of the few works not created specifically for Château La Coste is Small Crinkly by Alexander Calder.) This freedom of creative minds produces an extremely beautiful blend of art and architecture.For example, Japanese architect Tadao Ando was allowed to design the entrance gate, the arts center and a chapel, Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry drew the music pavilion and Oscar Niemeyer is responsible for the auditorium. A walking trail in between leads you past dozens of outdoor works of art, including by Ai Weiwei, Liam Gillick, Tracey Emin, Richard Serra, Yoko Ono and Michael Stipe (best known as the lead singer of R.E.M.).

"That freedom of creative minds produces an extremely beautiful mix of art and architecture."

Many works of art at Château La Coste hold the middle ground between sculpture and architecture, including Brick Labyrinth by Per Kirkeby. Constructed of 24,000 handmade bricks, this labyrinth is the artist's first work completed after his death. Kirkeby chose the location for the work because of its stunning views and proximity to a small ruin hidden among the trees.

Liam Gillick, Multiplied Restistance Screened, 2010, photography: Andrew Pattman

McKillen, meanwhile, keeps the estate's name alive; since 2004, he has been producing white, red and rosé wines here following a winemaking tradition that dates back to Roman times. In doing so, he adopts a biodynamic approach to protect soil and environment as much as possible. At the same time, the Irish entrepreneur is also asserting his background. As a result, Château La Coste has become a gastronomic center, with no fewer than five restaurants and a Provençal terrace where you can sample local delicacies and the produce of the vineyards. One of the restaurants is even run by famed Argentine chef Francis Mallmann.

Per Kirkeby, Brick Labyrinth, 2018, photography: Vincent Agnes

 

At Château La Coste, you can not only dine and taste wine amid contemporary art and architecture. The estate also includes a luxury hotel designed by Hong Kong designer André Fu. Here, French art de vivre prevails. All 28 villa suites have terraces overlooking vineyards and the Luberon Valley. Ten suites even have private pools. At the hotel, you'll have breakfast among works by Cy Twombly, Fernand Léger, Alberto Giacometti and others.

Both the art collection and the "domaine" itself are a work in progress. Each visit to Château La Coste is therefore rewarded with new gems from talented artists, photographers and architects. So I can't wait for the next time I get to park my car under that pond with Bourgeois' giant spider!

Villa La Coste, photography: Richard Haughton