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Rural French hamlet auctioned off to South Korean artist

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-05-22

The abandoned hamlet of Courbefy in France’s Massif Central has been bought for 520,000 euros by a South Korean artist at auction. The deserted site had been repossessed by a bank after its owner accumulated 650,000 euros in debt.

AFP - A ghost-hamlet in rural France that became a global media sensation for failing to find a buyer was auctioned off on Monday to South Korean artist Ahae for 520,000 euros ($663,000).

The Asian artist beat competition during bidding from Dutch reality TV giant Endemol that wanted to shoot a series in the hamlet and a Belgian company that wanted to create a centre for housing the handicapped.

The deserted hamlet of Courbefy in the Massif Central near the centre-west city of Limoges is classified as an historic monument, perched on a hilltop at an altitude of 557 metres (1,800 feet) and offering 360-degree views over the surrounding countryside.

Bernard Guilhem, the deputy mayor of the commune which includes the 150 people who live in the surrounding countryside, said that the auction had become a "fairytale" for locals after global media picked up the story.

Guilhem said that once the hamlet appeared on satellite news channels, investors began arriving from Asia, the Middle East and North America, some by private jet.

Other potential buyers wanted to know if it was possible to build a heliport on the site, while locals hope that the new owner will create some jobs in the largely agricultural region.

Photographer Ahae, whose latest exhibition of pictures of the French countryside shot from a window opens in Paris on June 26, bought the hamlet through the intermediary of his company Ahae Press Inc.

An Ahae representative said that artist's plan for the hamlet would be "environmental, artistic and cultural".

Ahae's website says he seeks places where he can put into practice "concepts of an organic lifestyle... to allow nature to develop as it should, without the interference of man or human activities."

The site was bought for over 700,000 euros by a developer in 2003 who wanted to build a holiday complex, but he had to drop his plans after accumulating 650,000 euros in debt.

The developer was unable to find a buyer and dropped the asking price from 1.2 million to 700,000 euros before the bank took over the property but was also unable to find a buyer.

Date created : 2012-05-22