Nearly every major French artist has spent time in the south of France. Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Chagall all called Provence and the Côte d’Azur their home at some point, and various museums across the region honor their work. Additionally, Nice has become a hot spot for contemporary art thanks to the Fondation Maeght, near the village of Saint-Paul de Vence. In downtown Nice, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art has works by Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Claes Oldenburg and Niki de Saint Phalle, while mansions like Villa Masséna and, just outside Nice, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild give visitors a glimpse into the opulent lifestyles that the French Riviera is famous for. But alongside these well-known museums are off-the-beaten-path attractions well worth a visit for unique art experiences without the crowds.
Lovag ‘Bubble House’
Architect Antti Lovag dedicated his career to his “bubble houses,” comprised of spherical rooms of various sizes connected by tubular hallways that look like something out of a 1960s sci-fi movie. The three homes he built in the south of France are privately owned, but one of them, Maison Bernard in Théoule-sur-Mer, is open to the public on a few days from September to May (the house is closed to visitors in the summer, when the owners visit). We booked a visit through the Andrew Harper Travel Office. The tour — with a guide who is a friend of the owner — was in French, but we were given a laminated placard in English with which we could follow along. We spent nearly two hours inside the house with our small group, discovering the fantastical yet highly functional design. It consists of colorful bedrooms in individual terracotta “bubbles”, along with a large bubble that’s dedicated to the kitchen, dining area and living room with a giant curved plexiglass wall that looks out over the sea. Maison Bernard feels out of this world, but it also blends seamlessly with its surroundings.
If you fall in love with Maison Bernard, there’s some good news: Another nearby Lovag house, Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulles, is available for rent. Contact our Travel Office to learn more.