#auctionwatch Alain Delon is one of France’s most recognisable actors, playing neo-noir antiheroes through the 1960s and 70s. With his brooding good looks, he came to embody the essence of ‘French cool.’ However, a lesser-known aspect of his life is his remarkable personal art collection, carefully curated over the past six decades – and now headed to auction with Bonhams at the sale, Alain Delon: 60 Years of Passion.
‘There are two things I regard as my legacy: my acting career and my art collection. I am immensely proud of both,’ says Delon. And the red thread that binds the pieces in his diverse collection? ‘C’est moi!’.
Delon is parting way with a significant portion of his cherished collection at Bonhams’ Paris space on 22 June 2023, with some 85 artworks by the likes of Veronese, Corot, Delacroix, Millet, Degas, Dufy, Bugatti, and Gleizes, set to go under the hammer. Estimates predict the sale will yield over €5m.
‘I bought my first drawing in 1964 in London,’ recalls the French actor. By 1969, his enthusiasm for collecting gained pace, with Le Monde reporting: ‘On Thursday in London, during an auction at the Sotheby’s gallery, the actor Alain Delon bought for £58,000 a drawing by Albert Dürer measuring 14 cm x 11 cm representing a beetle.’
The purchase was the highest sum ever paid for an old master drawing at that time. A little over a year later, Delon acquired a drawing by Rembrandt – an arresting depiction of an elderly man – for an additional £55,000.
In the subsequent years, Delon’s collection expanded significantly, thanks to numerous notable acquisitions, particularly at Sotheby’s in London. Through the 1970s, he collected works by Rubens, Carracci, Guercino, Guido Reni, Frans Snyders, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Géricault, Delacroix, Daumier, and, above all, Millet, whom Delon reveres as the ‘god of drawing.’
Delon’s approach to acquiring art differed greatly from that of other professionals. He likened his process to the character he portrayed in Edouard Molinaro’s 1977 film, The Man in a Hurry, asserting that, unlike professionals who set limits based on financial considerations, he possessed no such constraints.
‘I don’t have any. They have more money than me, but beyond a certain estimate, they stop.’ His relentlessness helped him acquire the last drawing by Dürer sold at public auction.
But Delon’s collection was never intended as a financial investment. It defied prevailing trends in art acquisition of the time, which favoured contemporary works over Old Masters.
According to his daughter, Anouchka Delon, her father always chose ‘his art with the heart’, adding that growing up amidst these masterpieces was akin to living in a museum. As Delon’s treasured artworks transition to new homes through the upcoming auction, she ruminates: ‘Maybe they’ll feel the same emotion he could have felt in front of one of those paintings or drawings.’
Alain Delon: 60 Years of Passion sale begins at 14.30 CEST on 22 June 2023.