Nicolas Kugel represents the fifth generation of a family of leading art and antique dealers. He co-directs renowned Galerie Kugel, which presents its museum-worthy collection in Hôtel Collot, an extraordinary hôtel particulier on Paris’s Left Bank. Nicolas shares his favorite objects, ideal interiors, greatest challenges and happiest memories.
Galerie Kugel © Jérôme Galland
The most memorable trip I’ve taken:
Certainly, my first trip to Russia in 1992. My father [the art dealer, Jacques Kugel] was born in Russia, so it was a journey to discover my roots and a chance to meet my Russian relatives. Moscow was gloomy, dangerous and dirty. No restaurants, no shops, nothing we were used to. The beauty resided in the incredible people I met, people for whom culture and beauty was essential to survive this horrible regime. It was a life-changing experience to witness Communism collapsing.
The best party I’ve ever been to:
A Ball at the Weiller’s family house in Versailles, where we were invited with my 18-year-old daughter, Flore. The fantastic exotic Brazilian decoration and music was outstanding as the hosts were half Brazilian. All the youths were beautifully dressed, giggling, flirting, drinking. It was like watching a prom ball, unforgettable.
A moment that defined or changed my career:
When Hubert de Givenchy called me to ask if I was interested in buying his Limoges enamels collection and the Cabinet Armoire au char d’Appolon (pictured below) by the celebrated cabinet maker, André Charles Boulle.
The greatest challenge I’ve overcome:
Starting and finishing the work and decoration at the gallery, Quai Anatole France, in just six months to be ready for the inauguration date that coincided with the opening of La Biennale Paris in 2004. We had to finish the huge decoration work we undertook with the most talented, François Joseph Graf, and the great architect, Laurent Bourgois. Then, when the objects and furniture of the stock arrived, the magic became real...
Scroll down for an intimate video tour of the extraordinary Galerie Kugel, led by the Kugel Family ~ or watch now at Cabana Films.
My proudest achievement:
It would be too pretentious to say that I have achieved this, and I don't know what the future holds, but I do think that we have tried to carry on the family tradition since we took over the running of the gallery when our father [renowned art dealer, Jacques Kugel] died [in 1985]. The search for, and discovery of, works of art is a passion that is shared in the family and I can be proud to pass it on to our children.
I would describe my childhood as:
I was raised in my parents' flat surrounded by fragile antics, but never broke anything. I was brought up in the culture of respect for the object without realizing it.
My next weekend-away destination:
Our family house in Ibiza, where l relax immediately by listening to the frogs singing.
An object I would never part with:
A 17th-century multi-faced lottery dice in ivory, which was given to me by an unknown woman on behalf of her dying friend. After seeing our taste in a magazine, her friend decided that I should have this ivory dice. I never met her. I was so touched.
The best gift I’ve ever given or received:
I found a map from the 18th-century, representing the domain of Hubert de Givenchy, and I offered it to him with great pride.
Cabinet Armoire au char d’Appolon, Galerie Kugel © Guillaume Benoit
My favorite flea market or antiques fair:
Maastricht Art Fair, for sure. This fair is ancestral, it has inherited the spirit of the Middle Ages and the spirit of trade. Respect for culture and cosmopolitanism is still very active. It is a place of encounters and discoveries. A commitment to excellence, rigorous vetting standards, and an unparalleled collecting experience have remained constant in Maastricht’s journey to today.
Regardless of social status, regardless of cultural background, it must above all have a particular atmosphere that allows the person who lives there to be recognized. A decoration may be superfluous, but it is a reflection of the person and his or her taste. An interior is in some ways a reflection of its inhabitants.
An interior that is intended to be seen by others, without being lived in, will be cruelly lacking in soul.
I feel most confident when wearing:
Without hesitation, a Tuxedo. I have to admit men are lucky and advantaged when it comes to choosing an outfit.
My signature scent:
Lillies, the most wonderful flowers.
My all-time favorite fabric:
The person I call for good advice:
Most certainly my wife, who is wise, patient and a good listener.
The person I call for a good time:
My good friend, Ariel Wizman, philosopher, journalist, DJ. He's always in a good mood.
The most interesting dinner party companion:
I had the incredible opportunity to sit every day for two weeks at Henry Kissinger's table. I was too young to realize what a privilege it was to interact with such a man. I was staying with the Goldsmith family in Mexico, in a beautiful place. It was right after my father had passed. My friend Alix, Jimmy’s daughter, invited me to stay many times and I am very grateful to her and her family.
A new artist or designer whose work excites me:
Eva Jospin, for the energy and enigma generated by her work - innovative and classic.
Just One More Thing...
One Master: The memory of my father
One Muse: My elegant mother
One City: Paris
One Artwork: Chapelle Sixtin
One Book: Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
One Museum: The Louvre
One Shop: Mes Chaussettes Rouges, Paris
One Song: Historia de un Amor
One Color: Green
One Flower: Peony
One word to describe your style: Room for improvement, always
One word to describe Cabana: “Le vrai charme” ('truly charming')