J A N U A R Y 11, 2013

Have you ever wondered what drives people to spend their time, effort and money to buy, preserve and popularize works of art? After all, the life of every one of us is so short and it’s downright impossible to take everything you’ve collected along with you. That is, perhaps, why many don’t quite understand the motive force that drives people to collect works of art.

As somebody who in his line of profession has spent most of his time compiling all sorts of collections for others, I know for sure that collecting is essentially a unique passion of people in love with art. True, in the past few years the chance to invest profitably has become the main motive for many collectors. This is nothing new, yet a true collector is distinguished by the desire to be the first to spot talent, to support it and thus enable the artist to go on making works of art.

The world knows numerous examples of a private collection laying the foundations of a museum; collectors are also known to have seriously influenced the life and work of their contemporary artists and to have actively promoted the very process of artwork production. Just think of Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, Gertrude Stein and Albert Barnes, as well as other collectors who seriously influenced the life and work of Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, Marquet, Derain, Bonnard, Soutine and Braque, to name a few.

There are, however, extremely rare cases when the activity of some collectors led to the emergence of new forms of cooperation with artists. Exceptional in this respect is the activity of Aimé Maeght, who managed to organize a wonderful museum and an excellent exhibition ground for temporary shows on the basis of a private family collection and to create special conditions for artists to realize their creative ideas.


Aimé Maeght Maeght Foundation: Collecting as Creativity


Aimé Maeght (1906-1981) was born into the family of a railway engineer in northern France close to Lille. During the First World War his father went missing, and his mother with three sons and a daughter went to Nîmes in southern France, fleeing Nazi troops. Aimé learned early on what privation was and had to help his mother earn a living.

He was a brilliant student at the top of his class list for five years in a row. Aimé studied industrial design, then mastered modern printing techniques to obtain the engraver-lithographer diploma. He was an intelligent young man with a passion for poetry, painting and jazz.

Nothing presaged that Aimé Maeght would become a leading figure on the world art scene. Under a social security program for children who lost parents in the war he got a job in a printing house in Cannes, where he moved in 1927. He met there the young Marguerite Devaye, who was sparkling with vitality, and married her the following year. Throughout his life she was his loyal companion, helping to translate into life his most incredible dreams.

In 1932 Aimé Maeght opened his ARTE (Art and Graphic Techniques) printing house close to the Croisette of Cannes.

On December 6, 1945, Aimé opened the Galerie Maeght in Paris, which immediately became a meeting place for artists, poets and writers. Aimé and Marguerite had a wonderful ability to gather talented people around them. Their gallery staged exhibitions of the “most modern” artists of the time, including Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Ivan Puni, Pierre Bonnard and Valerio Adami.

Together with his family, Aimé became a close friend of Matisse, Braque, Léger, Miró, Chagall, Calder and Giacometti. The Galerie Maeght exhibited such recognized masters of the postwar period as Bram Van Velde, Antoni Tàpies, Raoul Ubac, Pierre Tal Coat, Jean Bazaine, Eduardo Chillida, Pierre Alechinsky, Valerio Adami, Jacques Monory and many others.



Aimé Maeght did not confine himself to being a marchant and gallery owner. In parallel with the publication of the art revue Derrière le miroir (DLM), he edited top quality works intended for bibliophiles and in the 1960s-1970s also published poetry revues.


Maeght Foundation

After the death of their youngest son Bernard, in 1954 Marguerite and Aimé Maeght set out on the advice of Fernand Léger to visit the USA in order to study the experience of American foundations of Albert Barnes, the Phillips Corporation and the Guggenheim family.

Little by little the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation concept took shape: it was to become a place where works by their artist friends could be kept and where artists could come to work and exchange views. A plan was thus conceived of an artistic village occupying a large territory with numerous premises around the inner yard, a chapel and a house for the artists. The Catalonian architect Josep Lluís Sert designed the architectural complex so as to present modern art in all of its manifestations. The Foundation is situated at Saint-Paul-de-Vence outside Nice.

The Maeght Foundation was formally inaugurated on July 28, 1964, with the French Culture Minister André Malraux in attendance and with the participation of stars, such as Yves Montand and Ella Fitzgerald. It became the first project of that level to focus on the art of living artists. Artists and sculptors were directly involved in implementing the project, producing monumental works of art – the Giacometti patio, the Miró labyrinth filled with sculptures and ceramics, wall mosaics of Chagall and Tal Coat, and the Braque pool – specially for the Foundation premises and integrating them into the surroundings.



The Foundation hosts large-scale exhibitions both on its own grounds and at other major museums. Its collection consists of 10,000 artworks, including 62 sculptures by Giacometti and 150 by Miró and Chagall’s largest picture. Every year 200,000 people visit the Maeght Foundation and its famous garden of sculptures by Miró, Giacometti, Calder, Braque, Chagall and Léger. The Foundation also maintains a library of modern and contemporary art numbering 30,000 books. The Maeght Publishers, the world’s largest, specialize in printing original engravings and lithographs by contemporary artists.