Philippe Schiepan understands that creativity is a movable feast. A primary shaker in the Internet’s early days, he has gone on to succeed in every realm of the digital arena that he has ventured into. So the Frenchman’s sudden left turn into hospitality might come as a surprise to some. But not Schiepan. “I grew tired of digital,” he says. “I think it is a little vintage now and removed from the lives of real people. And I am a real person!” In addition to opening Le Collatéral, he now dedicates his time to producing bespoke furniture and lighting pieces, as well as creating what he calls “identity” places.
Take Le Collatéral, for example. You simply can’t imagine this hotel being in another country or town—there is just a true conversation between the building and its environment, and that’s a question of identity. For me, the hotel is like a film. You have to write it, create a set and scenes. When the workers are here, it’s like shooting the film. And then the guests are the audience.
This building has actually been many things and has had many uses, from sacred to business to pleasure. The big challenge was to achieve a place that feels natural, inspiring, and comfortable for guests. If you are at peace with the identity of the structure and the rhythm of the art within, then the design is very easy. It just happens! But, of course, the hotel’s wonderful art here didn’t just happen, nor the very idea to do an art hotel.
The main point of the Le Collatéral is the relationship between the guests and the art. So, ultimately, it’s about emotions. The art creates pure emotion and, thus, memories. It’s very difficult to put words to these emotions. It’s silence and awe. Our guests don’t say, “Oh this is a great place.” They say, “We are just happy to be here!” So their emotional reaction, not their critical assessment, is what comes through the most.
The hotel’s art comes from local, national, international artists. Most of the time we bring the artists themselves to the hotel. It’s very natural, like life. You meet people, you want to do something with them. So the relationship is very important. We are not a gallery. And we don’t want to be a gallery.
A few pieces are by me, yes, but all the works speak about Arles and the Camargue, which brings us back to identity. People truly respond to that. We had New Yorkers staying with us recently say that Le Collatéral is the best hotel they’ve ever seen. I don’t know how this is possible! It was all just natural for me to create what we did.
No, but there are some new pieces each year.
Feeling, feeling, feeling! We don’t want to show off the things. There’s no specific lighting we’ve created for the art. It’s for enjoyment, not for shopping. It’s for discovery. By that I mean that I am very happy when people don’t see something on the first glance, but rather discover things little by little during their stay. Suddenly, they see somthing through a sideways glance. And then—a smile!
Funny you ask that. A guy who came here last year, a great traveler, told me that you can be a bird or you can be a tree. What’s fantastic about being a tree is that you stay in one place and the world comes to you. Le Collatéral is tree. And so am I!