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Christie's Paris to offer the Collection of Jacques and Galila Hollnader on 16 October
Interior shot – the collection of Jacques and Galila Hollander, in their home in Belgium. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

PARIS.- Christie’s announced the sale of an extraordinary cabinet of curiosities, to take place in Paris on 16 October this year. The collection comprises approximately 600 works, including paintings, drawings, furniture and objets d’art, spanning periods from Antiquity to the 17th century. The entire collection, with an estimated value of €4,000,000 to €6,000,000, was amassed during the second half of the 20th century by renowned collector Jacques and Galila Hollander. Since their wedding in 1975, the couple spent all of their free time gathering marginalised treasures, conserving and displaying the works in a spectacular fashion within the tradition of a Renaissance “Kunstkammer”.

Grégoire Debuire, Valuations Director, stated: “Disclosing the sale of this cabinet of curiosities to art lovers around the globe is a long-awaited and very special event. The return of a Kunstkammer trend is unprecedented, visible throughout interior design magazines to contemporary art installations, however, a collection of this quality is rarely offered on the market. The profusion and quality of works, and the flair with which they were chosen, make this collection a work of art in itself.”

It took almost 50 years and a particularly keen eye to create this “theatrum mundi”. It was almost by accident that at the age of 17, Jacques Hollander began his collection of rare and unusual objects, noticing their value before anyone else. Irresistibly attracted by a set of porcelain cups and saucers in a window shop of La Chaussée d’Ixelles, he purchased them and sold them only a few metres down the street, for almost twice as much. This was the start of his “addiction”, in the words of his wife Galila, who shares with him this all-consuming passion.

Galila Barzilaï-Hollander comments: «Jacques had a gift for spotting rare and genuine objects instantly, and this was strengthened by his exceptional photographic memory. I believe he would not have chosen me, had he not discerned the same kind of abilities in me, which we cultivated together – even our honeymoon was spent scouring antique shops!

The couple’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge were boundless. They ferreted through fairs and junk shops, auctions and antique shops, without confining themselves to specific categories. Their search led to acquiring paintings and drawings of all sorts, masterpieces of virtuosity carved in ivory or rock crystal, furniture, weapons and objects from every continent. It is precisely their eclectic and spontaneous nature which allowed the collection to naturally take the form of a cabinet of curiosities, long before the concept came back into fashion.
The objects in the sale belong to categories brought forth by a method of classification used by 17th century scholars: Arteficialia (or artefacta - the products of Man), which includes a bowl with a turned and carved ivory lid (estimate: €120,000-180,000), Naturalia (products of nature) such as a pair of corals on a turned ivory plinth (estimate: €15,000-25,000), as well as Scientifica (scientific objects) or even Exotica, that which relates to exotic plants and animals.

The countless treasures acquired by the collectors quickly outgrew their home on the outskirts of Brussels. To solve the problem, Jacques and Galila Hollander built a neoclassical structure in the form of a rotunda to house their collection. Upon entering this stunning private museum, a large wall of 33 inset glass display cases form a sort of mysterious giant chessboard. Opaque at first sight, the display cases are then successively lit by an ingenious computerised system, revealing the treasures collected by the couple.

With impeccable taste and curating flair, Jacques and Galila arranged, presented and displayed works of art and objects in the “collectors’ arrangements” so beloved by Marcel Proust, offering windows that reveal different worlds full of character, where compositions unite specific techniques or a materials, through a variety of works with common origin or iconographic theme. Displayed in this way, the collection in itself becomes an object of contemplation.

After Jacques Hollander’s death in 2004, Galila decided to keep the collection as it was. This auction will act as a testimony, a tribute to her husband’s exceptional eye and taste.

Galila’s latest venture focuses on contemporary art. “In 2005, I went to the Armory Show in New York, thinking I was going to an exhibition… of armour, Galila recalls. I surprised myself by buying a first work, then a second … I’d got the bug again.” Almost 1000 artists are now represented in her collection, created with the same exploratory and unprejudiced spirit that she developed with Jacques. A selected compendium will be exhibited at Christie’s in Paris at the time of the sale.

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