Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of a family of antiques dealers founded in Russia at the end of the 18th century by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel, a collector of clocks and watches. Inspired by his father’s interests Elie’s son Joseph trained as a clock repairer and subsequently went on to deal in both clocks and antique silver and jewellery. Elie’s grandson Matias later continued the tradition, dealing in antiques in Minsk and St Petersburg. Matias’s son Jacques, Nicolas and Alexis’s father, was born in Russia in 1912 and emigrated to Paris in 1924 where he established his own antiques business, first on the rue Amélie in 1958 and then on the rue de la Paix. Jacques specialised in silver and gold boxes and expanded the business to deal in fine furniture, works of art and sculpture. In 1970 he opened the highly prestigious gallery at 279, rue Saint-Honoré, establishing his reputation and attracting important clients from around the world. Nicolas and Alexis Kugel took over the gallery following their father’s death in 1985 and to this day continue the family tradition of sourcing the world’s finest antiques and works of art.
In 2004, Nicolas and Alexis Kugel relocated Galerie J.Kugel 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 the extensity of its specialities and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, which range in date from medieval and Renaissance up to the 1850s. This includes 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 and enhance their collections. All art works are notable for their rarity or the exquisite quality of their materials. The name Kugel is synonymous with authenticity, rarity and quality, and consequently an object’s ‘Kugel’ provenance results in an intrinsic increase in value.
Galerie J.Kugel regularly organise 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 a 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 demonstrated the rigor and dynamism of the gallery.
To accompany each exhibition, scholarly catalogues are published by the gallery in collaboration with 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 published L’Armoire au char d’Appolon par André-Charles Boulle in 1994. 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, which was published in 2005.
Numerous highly important sales have been achieved over the years. Notably in 1994, the gallery sold 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. The casket is said to be the most expensive object ever acquired by this museum. More recently, a double headed bronze from the collection of Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, conceived by Primaticcio and made for the King François I for his Château of Fontainebleau, was sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum.
The Kugel art reference library holds 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 1991.