Successful auction at legendary Hotel de Paris in Monte-Carlo – Taking home a piece of history

All 10.000 pieces from 150-year-old Hotel de Paris sold!

More than 150 years after the inauguration of the Hotel de Paris on January 14, 1864, the prestigious Artcurial, French leader in auctions at luxury hotels, conducted the public sale of the magnificent Palace’s furniture from January 25-30, 2015. All the 10.000 pieces, grouped in 3,400 lots including furniture from 138 suites and rooms from the total of 182 at the hotel, were sold during a memorable 6 days marathon. 75% of the lots were acquired by foreigners, a proof of the international allure of the event, and 20% o the sales were done via internet. The auction more than tripled the estimated amount for a total of over 3 million Euros (all fees included).

Only 400 articles were exhibited in 3 suites and the iconic Salle Empire before the historic sale began. The rest of the pieces were stored in a French warehouse in Saint Laurent de Var, after the move from the hotel using around 40 trucks of 50m3 in October 2014. A team of 20 people from Artcurial and SBM (Societe des Bains de Mer) worked painstakingly to do the inventory, wrapping everything with minutia and labeled every piece with precision. As they say: preparation, preparation, preparation! Then proceeded to design the catalogue in 8000 exemplars of which there are none left, and coordinate the logistics of the exhibition, auction and delivery, a mammoth and flawless undertaking! I am certainly keeping my catalogue as a collection item!

At the helm there was an experienced trio of auctioneers: Francois Tajan, having worked for 15 years as an auctioneer at Tajan SA, he joined Artcurial in 20015 as Co-Chairman; Stephane Aubert, an auctioneering graduate in 2003, he has been part of Artcurial since its inception. And last but not least Astrid Guillon, an auctioneer at the young age of 25, she was in charge of organizing the auction in Monaco.

The immense Salle Empire remained packed to the seams during the 6 days of the auction, not exactly to make bargains as prizes more than doubled, such was the excitement of buyers wanting to part with a piece of a dream. There was a buzzing of excitement in the room every day, as it was history in the making, without counting the thousands of potentital buyers connected via internet or by phone. But being actually present at this memorable event was the icing on the cake!

Francois, Tajan, Co-Chairman of Artcurial was quoted saying: “An auction for the most iconic luxury hotel in a place as famous as Monte-Carlo is truly a momentous event! Monaco is synonymous with luxury hotels, history, prestige and art of living, which are just a few good reasons for its fans to come form all over the world and to participate in the Hotel de Paris auction. It’s a chance for them to call a little bit of Monaco’s magic their very own.”

SBM having just recently succeeded to negotiate an equitable agreement with the work unions, the hotel will now be partially closed for restructuring and renovations during 4 long years until end 2018. The proceeds of the successful auction will be able to finance at least a little part of the total cost of the hotel revamping that has been lately estimated at around 250 million Euros.

The legend will go on

It was during the governance of Prince Charles III (1818-1889), that the construction of the Hotel de Paris took place on the Spelugues hill, once a highland covered with olive, lemon and orange trees. The project was entrusted to French billionaires Francois and Mary Blanc, who had made their fortune at the Hamburg Casino and who subsequently founded the “Societes des Bains de Mer”. The building, an example of Belle Epoque architecture by French architect Godinot de la Bretonnerie, was inaugurated in 1864 under the name “Hotel de Monaco”, shortly after the splendid Casino de Monte-Carlo, attracting an array of international clients. The new district became well known and in 1866 was renamed Monte-Carlo in honor of Charles III.

The Hotel de Paris has been alluring many distinguished figures including royalty, presidents, nobility, businessmen and artists. The reputation of the Hotel de Paris is only matched by the prestige of the guests it has welcomed for over a century and a half. It became a hub for party lovers and glamorous events with la cream de la cream from all continents in attendance. Visits by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VCC, Alexandre Dumas, demonstrated to the Principality’s strong reputation as a haven of peace for a rich and royal clientele. It is well known that Errol Flynn celebrated his wedding at the hotel joined by the who-is-who of Hollywood, Winston Churchill spent time in one of its large suites, even James Bond stayed there during the filming of GoldenEye, and the list goes on. The Hotel de Paris has also been the location for many French and international films with “Grace of Monaco” directed by Oliver Dahan and released in 2014 being the most recent one.

An image of the new project for the Hotel de Paris, 2014 @DR Imges du Cabinet Gabriel Viora

An image of the new project for the Hotel de Paris, 2014 @DR Imges du Cabinet Gabriel Viora

Major innovations include the creation of a garden courtyard in the center of the hotel with better use of the roof space with the installation of a new fitness, spa and pool area, superlative suites and a rooftop villa with its own private pool and garden. The goal is to ensure that the Hotel de Paris continues to be at the forefront of luxury and comfort to satisfy the increasing demands of a discerning hotel clientele. The hotel’s historic façade opposing the Café de Paris will remain intact. The legendary Lobby and Cellar, and its emblematic American Bar, Salle Empire, the Louis XV and the Grill, will continue to exist. Judging by the high-ticket cost of 250 million Euros for the extensive renovations, the Hotel de Paris should be spectacular! Above right is a copy of an image of the new project for the Hotel de Paris from the Gabriel Viora Architectural office that appeared in the Monaco local newspaper.

Highlights on some of the mythical furniture

The auction was a unique chance to part with a piece or furniture or memorabilia from the illustrious hotel, with buyers bringing the magic to their own homes or wherever the pieces will continue their existence.

Item No. 1 and lot from Winston Churchill suite – It all started with the easel and palette including a copy of a painting from the suite once occupied by The Right Honorable Sir Winston Churchill, named in honor of the celebrated Statesman. This lot No.1 was a sign of how successful the sale would be, as it had been estimated at €500 and went for €4.940 all fees included. By the way the 65 lots in this suite that had been estimated at €26.250 went for a total of €107.281 all included. One of the photographs representing the former English prime minister estimated between 100 and 150 Euros, found a buyer for €9.100 all fees included.

Items No. 209 to 306 – A set of 12 “Constellation” dishes from the restaurant Le Grill estimated at €300 reached a price of €14.700.

The restaurant Le Grille was inaugurated in 1959 by HRH Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco. With its sliding roof decorated with constellations, it was the legendary place to be for dining under the stars and offering a magnificent panoramic view of the Principality. The sliding roof has been carefully preserved and will be reinstalled when the hotel reopens end of 2018.

Item No. 851 – The splendid Persian carpet that was displayed in the lobby of the hotel during the auction, and had been estimated between 10.000 and 20.000 Euros was actually sold for €41.600, after a joust between buyers on site and those via telephone.

The description in the Auction Catalogue read: The decor of this particularly impressive carpet of over 70sqm consists of a central rosette and spandrels, set against a central field decorated with floral scrolls in red. A border of foliage on cream background harmoniously frames the central field. The carpet had an inscription indicating it came from the factory of Daroshtarh, Nain, Iran, circa 1962 (the date is mentioned on a label on the back), in wool and silk with asymmetrical knots known as Senneh or Farsihaff on a cotton backing, measuring L.1046 cm L.678cm, or over 70sqm. The supplier had been no other than the famous Moghadam Gallery in Monte-Carlo.

Items No. 845 & 849 – Two marble marquetry tables measuring H.42cm L.141cm P.66cm, from the grand hall of the Hotel de Paris were acquired by the Monegasque State at 8 times their estimated price, with a desire to preserve their national patrimony. One of them named “The Rock of Monaco” and the other “Principality of Monaco”.

Item No. 849B – The Yamaha piano model GC1, No.6154256, ebony finish in shinny black that used to be at the American Bar, was witness to many joyful moments in that mythical place frequented by celebrities from all over the world. My friend Lisa who was present during the sale told me it went for the entry bid of 4.000 Euros.

Yamaha piano from the American Bar at the Hotel de Paris on display in the grand hall before the auction @CelinaLafuenteDeLavotha

Yamaha piano on display in the grand hall before the auction @CelinaLafuenteDeLavotha

Item No. 1402 – The imposing pedestal table style Louis XV in giltwood and marble, mounted on giltwood and sculpted with coquilles and tinsels, that used to be the center piece of the Restaurant Alain Ducasse, estimated around 6,000 Euros, found a lucky new owner for €51.400 all fees included.

Item No. 1993 – A striking Louis XV style chandelier in golden metal and cut glass measuring H.165cm D.98cm.

Who knows where these pieces are now but for sure they have found a new life elsewhere, while the hotel takes its time to reinvent itself and continue creating memorable souvenirs. Like in the “One Thousand and One Nights” tale, the story goes on…

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