Has the south of France, which welcomes a multitude of tourists every summer for a pleasant holiday, fallen asleep on its achievements? No. Today, in Marseille, St Tropez or Monaco, artists are setting up shop, new places and concepts are being created. Our brand new spots.
We know by heart these idyllic summer visions that have forged the legend of the South of France. Like Brigitte Bardot, with her platinum mane, walking up the pontoon of Club 55. Jean Seberg in a cabriolet heading for the Croisette in the film Bonjour Tristesse. Helmut Newton’s muses climbing the steps of the Monte Carlo Beach diving board. The summer people photographed by Slim Aarons who laze around topless in the sun of Pampelonne. Hollywood actresses diving into the pool of the Eden Roc… These endless fantasies could have turned the region into a sleeping beauty, coiled in its assets and massively frequented by international tourists. Until the confinements pushed the French to invest in it and (re)discover it, and the new creative local generations began to swarm with inspiring projects.
This impetus makes it possible to envisage new and desirable contours. As the first port to slough off, Marseille has been making a major turnaround in recent years. From being a caricature of the pagan, messy and flashy, the city has become the new Eldorado of the prescriptor tribes. The cagole enthroned by Simon Porte Jacquemus, the rappers who make the whole country dance, the new cool spots are now growing there faster than the palm trees. Just look at the resounding success of Tuba, a former diving school transformed by Marion Mailaender into a minimalist hotel. Facing the creeks of Les Goudes, the restaurant welcomes, this season in residence, the chefs Sylvain Roucayrol and Paul Henri Bayart (Caché). Inspired by the local soil and the recipes of the Aegean, the tandem offers a beautiful Greek salad, crispy calamari, crudos, smoked bass on the barbecue or even pastised cabbage. More and more artists are also taking up residence here. Like the talented Manoela Medeiros, a Carioca painter, who exhibits her dreamlike works in the Panier district. I love the mixture of ruins and nature,” she says. I love the mixture of ruins and nature,” she says, “and the blue sea, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. Today, when I paint and I wonder what colour to use, I always start with blue, that’s what makes the Mediterranean architecture.”
The sculptor Léa Bigot, for her part, set up her studio in Marseille in 2019, attracted by “its light, which makes everything terribly aesthetic, from the light yellow hues of the morning to the more orange ones of the evening, you feel like you’re watching a film unfold in front of you”. The food and fashion scenes are not left out. Mercato, a vintage boutique run by two enthusiasts, has just opened its doors. And in the wake of the Zuri chef Camille de Souza, culinary pop-ups are multiplying, like Baïta, which proposes, every Sunday, to take over a terrace in the city and highlight a Provençal speciality and the know-how of local chefs. Not forgetting the Ensemble bookshop, inaugurated last summer, which focuses on beautiful art books, or the Amers publishing house, founded in 2021 by Emmanuelle Oddo, the artistic director already at the helm of the marine podcast “Rivages”, which celebrates works that focus on the sea and our relationship with the elements.
Further afield, this arty wave is redoubling in intensity in Antibes with the inauguration of the Hartung Bergman Foundation.
At the crossroads of the Getty Center and the Villa Medici, this place, in addition to presenting an exhibition dedicated to the fabulous archives of Hans Hartung and Anna-Eva Bergman, has its own research centre. The next two years will explore the theme of “science and abstraction”. To be discovered in a new space designed by Cristiano Isnardi, between Mediterranean vernacular and Roman domus. Other architectural models with strong concepts to enrich the landscape, two new hotels have been built on the coast with restaurants that are already causing a stir.
The first is called Belle Plage and is located in an old 1930s building in Cannes, a stone’s throw from the Palais des Festivals. Its undulating modernist façade was designed by Raphael Navot. Perched on the rooftop, its restaurant, led by Israeli chef Eyal Shani (Miznon, in Paris and Six Senses, in Ibiza) offers a menu that mixes sunny recipes and seasonal produce.
The second, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, a stone’s throw from the Monegasque palaces, is a glass colossus designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The Maybourne Riviera boasts an art collection that would make the collectors of the Rocher swoon (in particular the Louise Bourgeois sculpture in the lobby and the stained glass window by Le Corbusier), rooms overlooking the water and the Ceto restaurant. The latter is led by Mauro Colagreco (best chef in the world in 2019 thanks to his three-starred restaurant Mirazur, in Menton). The décor, designed by Bryan O’Sullivan, evokes Eileen Grey’s famous E-1027 villa. Further proof that more and more chefs are setting their sights on the region, Em Cherif is launching Monaco’s first Lebanese restaurant at the Hôtel de Paris, while Cyril Lignac is opening a pastry shop in Saint-Tropez. No doubt about it, it is impossible to resist the sirens of the Mediterranean…