20th-century-masterpiece

20TH CENTURY MASTERPIECE

In 1923 Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles commission Robert Mallet-Stevens to build - on the heights overlooking Hyères - "an infinitely practical and simple house," where everything, according to Charles de Noailles, "follows the same principle: functionality”.
Mondrian, Laurens, Lipchitz, Brancusi and Giacometti introduce works of art, Jourdain the furniture, and Guévrékian the Cubist garden. In addition to the clear, structured forms and defined contrasts, this resolutely modern avant-garde construction also reflects the rationalism movement. Boasting as many as 15 bedrooms as well as a pool and squash court, the continual addition of extensions up until 1933 transform the site into an edifice measuring some 1800m2 (19,375 square feet) dedicated to a new lifestyle approach where the body and nature, in harmony with the spirit, unite as one.

Here, in this dream resort with its white walls, a pearl protected by a lush mass of vegetation, with views over the Mediterranean and the Golden Isles, the Noailles play host to Dali, Gide, Breton, Artaud, Poulenc, Lifar, Huxley, and most of the major emerging artists of the day. Following the passing of Marie-Laure in 1970, and its acquisition by the town of Hyères, and successive restorations, the villa today, as an art center and artists’ residency, celebrates the 30th anniversary of its International Festival of Fashion & Photography.

The anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to revisit the places immortalized by Karl Lagerfeld in 1995 in a series of black and white photographs. "Timelessly modern", "vulnerable like the present instant", the Villa Noailles appears empty, altered by the passing of time and yet still imbued with almost a century's worth of encounters and artistic creations. The image freezes the poetry of the decor, ennobling the traces of time and, moving beyond a reality that can sometimes prove limiting, awakening the imagination.

Sophie Brauner

Photos by Karl Lagerfeld

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