Every summer the French city of Arles plays host to a flood of photographers, art dealers and collectors during the annual photography festival, Les Recontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles. Founded in 1970, the fair has become a launching pad for celebrated photographers across the globe. Exhibitions are held throughout the city, often taking over heritage sites that are only open to the public during the show (think 12th century chapels and 19th century industrial buildings). Photographers like Martin Parr and Nan Goldin have been involved, Patti Smith has performed, Christian Lacroix has staged a show (the couturier was born in Arles). All in all, it’s quite an event but that’s to be expected from a city that has attracted artists since the days of Gauguin and Van Gogh. With a new Frank Gehry-designed art center in the works the buzz is sure to grow. All this is to say that if you’re planning to attend the fair, best to book your hotel now.
A short walk from Arles’ city center, La Villa des Alyscamps is a stunning hotel with interiors designed by India Mahdavi. Set within the former convent of Saint Honorat Church, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that Mahdavi decorated with a mix of vintage and contemporary furnishings. There’s a host of midcentury rattan to keep things cozy plus pieces by avant-garde designers like Marteen Bass for a bit of edge. Even the bathroom is inspired, with psychedelic wallpaper and Zellige tiles providing a backdrop to Mahdavi’s curvy stools and basin. If you can’t make it for Les Recontres you’ll still be able to see a slew of contemporary art, thanks to owner and arts patron Maja Hoffman whose pristine collection fills the house.
Photograph © La Villa des Alyscamps