Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
When collecting becomes one’s destiny
Galerie Girardon. Courtesy of Christie's.

Galerie Girardon. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Henri Mattise, one of the initial fauve painters, collected photographs of erotica. Pablo Picasso, perhaps the most famous artist of the twentieth century, collected African art. Herb Ritts, self-taught fashion photographer, began collecting photographs as he discovered his own proclivity for the camera. Is collecting a pastime to be associated with masters of modern art? Hardly.

Artists have collected other artists’ work systematically, an inclination that can be traced all the way back to the Romans.  Collecting allows one to pass from acquaintance and contemplation, to serious study, and finally to the internalization of the ideas and technical characteristics displayed in the various pieces in the collection.

It does not come as a surprise then that François Girardon (1628-1715), perhaps the most influential sculptor in France under Louis XIV, was also a dedicated collector of sculpture and an owner of about 800 pieces ranging from classical antiquities and Roman copies to work of his contemporaries. Subsequently, he commissioned Gilles-Marie Oppenordt (1672-1742) to draw an architectural setting to which he supplied the engravings and which served at staging his entire collection.

Today, several of Girardon’s sculptures belong to great French couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who, in collaboration with Christie’s, reproduced the architectural setting that Girardon himself had desired for his collection at the Biennale des Antiquaires that took place in Paris in September. Mr. De Givenchy began frequenting galleries at a very early age and well before he could afford any of the work he admired. These frequent trips and intimate consultations with famous Parisian gallerists, such as Mr. Hammel of the Galerie Ramsey on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, gave Mr. De Givenchy a solid knowledge of the period he likes (mostly 17th and 18th century).

Famous for his elegantly simple couture designs, Mr. De Givenchy owes a large part of his aesthetic to the art that he has deliberately collected. And even if he had to let go of a few pieces now and then, or thought he would never find the one he truly admired, he maintains that sometimes “collecting becomes one’s destiny.”

© Thomaï Serdari