Contemporary art dealer Pierre-Alain Challier fell in love with a romantic castle as a boy and finally fulfilled his dream of one day ruling the roost.
When asking children what they would like to be when they grow up, the answers are often about being a firefighter, a movie star, or living in a castle. In the case of French contemporary art dealer Pierre-Alain Challier, living in a castle was his boyhood aspiration and today he is not too far off the mark. “I grew up in a little village next to the Château de Lascours, about 435 miles south of Paris,” says Challier. “It was always the magical, rundown castle next door, like the one in Sleeping Beauty.” He and his friends would play on the estate’s grounds, even though they were forbidden from doing so. When he was 12, Challier wrote to the owner of the property, a prince, and asked if he could buy the smaller château in the woods. He never answered. “I then went to see him,” he recalls, “and he told me his family would never sell anything.”
Time marched on and Challier continued to fantasize about this romantic castle. He moved to Paris, opened his art gallery, but never forgot about this childhood dream. About 10 years ago, the estate’s owner died and bequeathed the huge property to a niece, who lived in Patagonia—and she had no plans of moving back. So in 2012, Challier and his partner, Bertrand de Latour, made an offer on the château and purchased the property, without ever having even been inside.
The first project was to replace all of the roofs—approximately 16,400 feet of it—just to keep the entire place from completely falling apart. Then work began on the expansive park and gardens. The property had been abandoned for many years, and as is often the case with such properties, had been stripped of all its mantles and anything that could be carted off and sold or repurposed. “Maybe this in a way would give me the chance to do something new,” Challier comments. “I want to respect the exterior and the way it was, but be a bit more flexible with the interiors.”
Challier’s family still lives one village away and all of them have enthusiastically embraced the renovation project. “This is the project of a lifetime, which will take just as long,” he says. “This place is magical, and I want to think about it for the next generation.” His hope is to set up a foundation for artists to stay on the property and create. “Not a gallery, but for exhibitions and for large-scale monumental works.” This is a long-term plan and a few artists have already come to visit, wander around the property, and imagine. Meantime, Challier was approached recently by a young man from a nearby village who told him he had also dreamed about this abandoned château his entire life, asking if he could be married there. Not one to shy away from a celebration, Challier agreed and the young couple said their vows on the grounds this summer. Another dream come true.