These news have hit the headlines all over the world. News about luxury, but not only. From April 17 to 21 of the present year, the French auction house ARTCURIAL will sell more than 3500 lots from the legendary Paris Ritz Hotel, which closed in 2012 and reopened after a huge 4-year renovation, celebrating its enduring charm with exhibitions and events held in all the chain’s European properties.
In recent years, Artcurial has scored a series of remarkable strategic partnerships and acquisitions, and organised significant exhibitions and sales, which involve ancient luxury properties and the art market. This is why Artcurial is interested in the Paris Ritz. A symbol of luxury and noblesse, with a hint of aspiration for its guests: brilliant innovators, acclaimed intellectuals, extroverted socialites.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald had hit the mark when, a few years before the ’29 crisis and before The Last Tycoon, he printed The Diamond as Big as the Ritz (in the collection Tales of the Jazz Age). The insightful idea of creating a new formula for the hotel business came to Cèsar Ritz, a genius of hospitality, often defined as The king of hoteliers. The man was born in a small town in Switzerland, in a family of peasant, with big aspirations and an energetic character. Cèsar married the daughter of a hotel manager: in no time, every hotel he owned turned into a Grand hotel with a new tempting formula which included a special attention to cuisine and hygienic rules. In Paris he acquired the very best chef of his time, Auguste Escoffier, as head of the hotel’s kitchen (first at the Savoy, and subsequently at the Ritz). Escoffier, who was known as “the chef of kings and the king of chefs”, was an active organiser of restaurant services. He was largely responsible for the introduction of French haute cuisine in the rest of Europe.
Wether a guest lived or simply stopped by at the Paris Ritz, the hotel always left him with a special mark and a sense of belonging to the place. Coco Chanel called it “Ma Maison”. She did indeed make the hotel her home for 35 years, thus becoming its longest-staying guest. According to what today sounds more like a legend than actual history, Ernest Hemingway took back the Ritz bar after the Nazi invasion: the bar is today called after him. It is, however, true that in June 1940 the nazis requisitioned the grand hotel on Place Vendome and the Ritz was actually favoured by Hermann Göring, who stayed in the Imperial Suite. It is also true that Cole Porter, Audrey Hepburn and socialite and gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell found at the Ritz a kind of home. Other famous guests included Marcel Proust, Graham Greene, George Bernard Shaw, Maria Callas, Somerset Maugham. The Paris Ritz was much more than just a hotel.
A new aura surrounded the Ritz in the 80’s and 90’s after the acquisition by the billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed and the sadly famous story of Dodo Al-Fayed and Lady Diana. All this is history now. Each auctioned piece, Louis XIV and Empire style, recalls a long-lost glamour and sounds like the swan song of an intimate and individual luxury world, rich in stories and adventures.