Hello Monaco Winter 2018–2019 HelloMonaco #05 Winter 2018–2019 - Page 104

Interview HelloMonaco: Ilya, how did you arrive at the idea of buying the Villa? Ilya Melia: Incidentally. My friend told me that the heiress of Santo Sospir, Carole Weis- weiller, was experiencing financial difficul- ties and was looking for someone who could continue her work and preserve the history of the Villa. I visited the place and the decision to buy it was rapid. Then we started quite com- plicated negotiations. HM: What was the determining factor in the owners’ decision to sell the Villa? After all, every object here has its history, so, they had to trust you. IM: The trust was partly forced, since nothing had been invested in the Villa for many decades. Today it is in very poor condition. Carole did not have the opportunity to invest in the Villa, so the deal took place. Such decisions in my family are taken together with my mother. In this case, neither she nor I had doubts. It was a mutual decision, taken very quickly. HM: Were you familiar with the work of Jean Cocteau before buying the Villa? IM: I was raised in the French culture. I grew up on it, studying French from childhood in a Moscow school. We studied French literature, which I know well enough, and through the language I learned about French culture. I was familiar with his work, but did not distinguish 102 / Hello Monaco Winter 2018–2019 Among the visitors of the Villa were Coco Chanel, Picasso, Herbert von Karajan, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé and Pierre Cardin. him from other artists and writers of that time. Over time, I discovered him mainly as a gra­ phic artist and still consider him a genius. HM: What do you know about the famous visitors to the Villa? IM: They were invited by Francine. Among the visitors I can name were Coco Chanel, Picasso, Herbert von Karajan, Alain Delon, who spent his first weekend here with Romy Schneider, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé and Pierre Cardin. In a word, the Villa Santo Sospir is not only about Jean Cocteau, who spent almost 12 years here, it’s about the story of Francine and all those people who visited the Villa, creating here the atmo­ sphere that we can feel today. HM: In the end, Cocteau left the Villa, be- cause he quarreled with Francine? IM: He got kicked out. He quarreled with Francine, who replaced him with a younger lover and muse. She threw him out in the rain. He did not have money, so he went to the cheapest hotel available. Later Fran- cine regretted it. Their relationship was re- established, but they would never be as close anymore. HM: You decided to restore the Villa. It is a great responsibility, isn’t it? IM: Yes, the responsibility is great, above all for me. In addition, getting the permission for the restoration work took us eight more months than we expected. Nevertheless, everything ended well and the Villa will be closed for two years. HM: Who will take part in the restoration? IM: Antoine Bruguerolle, the architect from «Cultural Heritage», who has extensive expe- rience in this field. As far as I know, there are only twenty-two specialists with such a high level of competence in France. Florence Cre- mer and her team will join Antoine. They are experts in the restoration of buildings of the 20th century. And last but not least, Jacques Grange, a well-known interior architect, and Madison Cox well renowned in the field of landscape architecture.