GALERIE J. KUGEL
Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of antiques dealers, their company having been founded in Russia by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel. At the end of the 18th century, Elie was a collector of clocks and watches and persuaded his son Joseph to become a clock repairer and he subsequently went on to deal in both clocks and antique silver and jewellery. His grandson Matias, Nicolas’ and Alexis’ grandfather was also an antiques dealer in Minsk and St Petersburg. Their father Jacques, who was born in Russia in 1912, emigrated to Paris in 1924 and established his ouw business, first on the rue Amélie in 1958 and then on the rue de la Paix, specialising in silver and gold boxes. Jacques expanded the business to deal in fine furniture, works of art and sculpture. Jacques Kugel opened the highly prestigious gallery at 279, rue Saint-Honoré in 1970, building his reputation and acquiring important clients from around the world. Nicolas and Alexis Kugel took over the gallery when Jacques died in 1985 and have continued the family tradition of sourcing the finest antiques and works of art to be found anywhere.
Since 2004, Nicolas and Alexis Kugel have moved to Hôtel Collot, 25 quai Anatole France, built in 1840 by the distinguished architect Louis Visconti for Jean-Pierre Collot, director of La Monnaie (the French Mint).
Galerie J. Kugel is unique in its range of specialities and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, which range in date from medieval and Renaissance up to the 1850s, all notable for their rarity or the exquisite quality of their materials. They include silver, furniture, sculpture, Kunstkammer objects, ivories, renaissance jewellery, scientific instruments, rock crystal, Russian art, and paintings. Alexis and Nicolas Kugel help art lovers to build up their collections. The “Kugel” provenance of an object really is an intrinsic increase in value because it is synonymous of authenticity, rarity, and quality. A recent study revealed that pieces sold in auction with a Kugel provenance, have on average doubled their middle estimation price1.
They regularly organize events and exhibitions, making the gallery an essential port of call for collectors and museum curators from all over the world and contributing to the rise of Paris as cultural capital. In 1996, Nicolas and Alexis Kugel instituted a series of very various and original exhibitions. These exhibitions, both scientific and commercial, have since shown the rigor and dynamism of the gallery.
- In 2012, the exhibition Gold, Jasper and Carnelian, Neuber at the Saxon Court has been developed with the Grünes Gewölbe of Dresden and the Frick collection of New York, where it has been presented during the year 2012. The monographic exhibition was structured around the renowned Breteuil table, a masterpiece of European furniture.
- In 2010, the exhibition Anticomania aroused visitors’ surprise and enthusiasm. Staged by Pier Luigi Pizzi, it was installed under a rotunda built for the occasion in the courtyard of the mansion, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. All kinds of works of art from antiquity to the French Empire were exhibited.
- In 2008, the Prince of Liechtenstein did it the honor of lending his finest bronzes: exceptionally, the exhibition The Bronzes of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Renaissance and Baroque Masterpieces was not commercial and its only purpose was to offer to the Parisian public the chance of admiring superb sculptures.
- In 2006, the gallery paid homage to Nicolas Landau, one of the great antique dealers of the 20th century, called “Prince des Antiquaires” and again, the gallery met a great success.
- In 2002, 14,000 visitors, a remarkable figure for a private gallery, came to see Spheres, The Art of the Celestial Mechanic, which featured an extraordinary group of 50 terrestrial and celestial globes, mechanical and planetary spheres, from antiquity to the early 19th century. Included in this exhibition the celebrated Chef d’oeuvre of Antide Janvier, the most complex astronomical clock in the history of horology that took 11 years to complete, from 1789 to 1801.
- In 2000, Joyaux Renaissance, featured some 150 extraordinary pieces of Renaissance jewellery.
- In 1998, Nicolas and Alexis returned to their roots and assembled over 300 Russian works of art including paintings, furniture and silver for their second exhibition Treasures of the Tzars. The highlight of the exhibition was the famous 54-carat Potemkin diamond given by Catherine the Great to her favoured statesman and lover Grigory Potemkin which was shown in public for the first time.
- The first exhibition held at the gallery in 1996 entitled Panorama de Paris, comprised some 60 paintings, drawings and watercolours dating from 1650 to 1850 depicting Paris and its surroundings.
To accompany each exhibition, scholarly catalogues are published by Kugel in collaboration with the leading art historians in the relevant fields. The publication of the Givenchy enamels was awarded the Prix Eugène Carrière by the Académie Française. In addition, the Kugel brothers have published L’Armoire au char d’Appolon par André-Charles Boulle in 1994 and Alexis Kugel also co-authored with M. Bimbenet-Privat La collection d’orfèvrerie du cardinal Sfondrati in 1998, and the catalogue Orfèvrerie française, la collection Jourdan-Barry, co-authored by Michèle Bimbenet-Privat and Peter Fuhring published in 2005.
Numerous highly important sales have been achieved over the years, notably in 1994 the prestigious collection of 16th century Limoges enamels from the collection of Hubert de Givenchy, the finest in private hands, and the remarkable Armoire au char d’Appolon by André-Charles Boulle, also from the celebrated designer’s collection. An early 16th century mother-of-pearl silver-gilt mounted casket, made by François I’s goldsmith Pierre Mangot, allegedly the greatest surviving example from the French Renaissance, sold to the Musée du Louvre in 2000 for an undisclosed sum but was said to be the most expensive object ever acquired by this museum. More recently, a double headed bronze conceived by Primaticcio, from the collection of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, made for the King François Ier for his Château of Fontainebleau, was sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum.
The Kugel art reference library of over 20,000 volumes and the team of archivists and researchers not only provide an invaluable resource for the business but also assist in research for lost treasures.
Galerie J. Kugel has exhibited at TEFAF Maastricht since 1989.