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Photographer of Picasso, Man Ray and Henry Moore auctions his private art collection
Cesar, Expansion Mobil Oil. 1968. Polyurethane foam and tin on panel Unique piece, 86,50 x 66 x 20,50 cm Jean Ferrero Collection. Estimate : 10 000–15 000 € / 11 000–17 000 $.

PARIS.- A part of the collection of Jean Ferrero, a valuable witness to the art scene on the Côte d’Azur during the 2nd part of the 20th century, will come under the hammer of Francis Briest at Artcurial on 1 April 2015. This group of over 200 works from the Ecole de Nice was collected by a man passionate about both the art and the artists that he had got to know so well. His collection includes the key names from this artistic movement, including several works by Ben, Arman, Bernar Venet, Claude Gilli and César from neighbouring Marseille.

The Ecole de Nice comprised around thirty artists who lived and worked in the area during the second half of the 20th century. Some belonged to established artistic movements, like Arman and Martial Raysse (New Realism) and Ben (Fluxus), while others, such as Bernar Venet and Claude Gilli, defied classification.

Jean Ferrero, based in Nice, developed deep friendships with these local artists, who allowed him to photograph them at work. Today he possesses an important archive of portraits that extends beyond the Ecole de Nice, featuring names such as Man Ray, Lucio Fontana, Marc Chagall, Pierre Soulages, Jean Cocteau and Martial Raysse. No artist working along the Riviera escaped his attention.

Jean Ferrero was an avid collector. He described himself as « a terrible dealer afflicted with the collecting virus ». However it was his friend Ben who painted a more complete picture in a work from 1971 : « Here lives Ferrero / born on 1 March 1931 / director of film stars, shepherd, photographer of nude men – avid collector of modern art – loves money – raw horse meat – other people’s women – talks too much. » This description expresses both Ferrero’s endearing and exuberant personality as well as his many lives.

The son of an Italian immigrant, Jean Ferrero was self-taught. He had a modest upbringing and took on many small jobs before turning to photography. Initially a street photographer, he took portraits of passersby. He went on to find his own subjects. He captured images of boxers and weightlifters, exploring the theme of the nude male in the open air, and his photos soon attracted an international audience. Commissions from international publications grew and became an important source of revenue between 1955 and 1975, enabling him to acquire a large number of artworks. At the same time, he worked as a press photographer for Nice Matin, La Stampa and in particular the magazine XXe siècle, for which he produced numerous profiles of famous artists, which opened up the art world to him.

Sport was a fundamental part of Ferrero’s life. It was through sport that he found his first models, and it was in the clubs on the Côte d’Azur that he met and befriended artists. This generous man developed close relationships with most of the artists in the area. And so we find in his collection, alongside characteristic pieces by each artist, more intimate and personal work, such as pieces by César, created in Jean Ferrero’s apartment, in the company of the collector’s daughter. Ben, whom he met in 1965, was also very close to the collector, and produced several portraits of him.

In 1970 Jean Ferrero opened his first gallery, in the port of Nice. He was inspired by what he had discovered in Soho during his visits to New York, and created the first apartment gallery in the region. Several years later, he relocated to the Promenade des Anglais, to an imposing 300m² space that he continued to manage until 2003.

His motto « l’art, quel qu’il soit » (art, of any kind) explains the eclectic nature of his collection. Now aged 84 years, Ferrero wants to concentrate on his photographic work. On 26 February 2014, he donated 853 works to the town of Nice, amongst them pieces by Arman, Ben, César and Moya, as well as figurative works, and he has decided to sell approximately 200 artworks through Artcurial.

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