With the auction of art dealer Paul Haim’s collection of sculptures which shall take place on October 22nd 2020, Christie’s shall present to the public works worthy of a place in a museum. By Éric Jansen
For years a remarkable secret garden on the banks of the Adour river, not far from Bayonne and Biarritz on the border of the Landes and Basque Country, concealed from view behind its foliage some forty sculptures by some of the greatest… Auguste Rodin, Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, Aristide Maillol, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Étienne-Martin, Anthony Caro, Eduardo Chillida, Agustín Cárdenas, Niki de Saint Phalle… The secret was kept by art dealer Paul Haim and his wife, photographer and painter Jeannette Leroy. Known as La Petite Escalère, this private museum welcomed friends as well as a few artists and students, yet was unknown to the general public. La Petite Escalère dates back to the late 1960’s when the couple fell in love with the area and succumbed to the charm of a farmhouse and its plot. Paul Haim was at the time a well-known art dealer in Paris, particularly renowned for having introduced the Japanese to Impressionism and modern art... In the capital he organized exhibitions devoted to Rodin and Bourdelle, whose daughter Rhodia Bourdelle was a close friend along with Dina Vierny who had modelled for Maillol. At the same time, Paul Haim installed works of art in his garden which progressively grew to cover some 28 hectares.
La Caresse d'un oiseau, de Joan Miró.
Nana montée sur un oiseau, de Niki de Saint Phalle.
Over the years, the collection grew and became increasingly contemporary, and in 1984 Chinese artist Zao Wou-Ki created an over 7-metre long mosaic for the collection. With the assistance of gardener Gilbert Carty, Paul and Jeannette developed their collection, setting up their works in the middle of a bamboo grove, in shady woodland or by the vegetable garden. The idea was not to educate, it was to surprise the visitor with works of art in a natural setting, and to consequently create a true and unexpected rapport with nature. When Paul Haim passed away in 2006, his daughter Dominique endeavoured to keep this unique place alive. Jeannette's death last June was however to mark the end of this extraordinary adventure. And so, today, a page is turning… And if collectors can't afford Alexander Calder's or Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures (estimated respectively at between 2 and 3 million euros and 300 and 500,000 euros), they may nonetheless get to see them before the sale at the Kering HQ located in the former Laennec hospital. Presented by Nathalie Crinière, the exhibition may well offer them their last chance to witness a remarkable moment in an extraordinary couple’s equally extraordinary life.