JAN KRUGIER, 1928-2008
Jan Krugier, 80, celebrated Swiss art dealer who opened his first gallery in Geneva in 1962 and a New York branch in 1987, died at his home in Geneva on Nov. 15, 2008. A specialist in 19th-century art and classic modernism, Krugier didn’t hesitate to juxtapose contemporary and modern art with African ceremonial objects or Old Master drawings. He was a formidable presence at international art fairs and in the auction salesrooms, where in recent years he could be found sitting in the front row, a striking figure with his shock of white hair under a dark fedora, often arguing with the auctioneer about the amount of the next bid on a lot he was seeking.
Krugier was born in a small town in Poland to a Jewish family. His father died fighting in the war, and Jan survived the conflict as a teenager, with forged papers, serving with the resistance as well as in labor camps, ending the war at Bergen-Belsen, according to a recent article in Harpers & Queen. He settled in Switzerland with family friends after the war, where he met Alberto Giacometti. He soon went to Paris, where he studied painting with André Lhote and became acquainted with many School of Paris artists. He decided to become an art dealer, and mounted his first exhibition in Geneva in 1962 -- a show of 112 Giacomettis.
Krugier subsequently met his second wife, Marie-Anne Poniatowski, an artist and a descendent of the last king of Poland, and Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s lover and the mother of Marina Picasso, who turned to Krugier for help to manage her share of the Picasso estate. Krugier represented the Marina Picasso Collection as well as works from the estate of Joaquin Torres-Garcia.
Recent exhibitions at Krugier Gallery in New York included "From Turner to Cézanne" (2001), "Beckmann / Picasso" (2004-05) and "Eva Rubinstein: Elegies" (2008). His final exhibition, dubbed "Dialogues," Nov. 3-20, 2008, includes works ranging from Jean-Michel Basquiat to pre-Columbian art, is on view at the nonprofit Dactyl Foundation at 64 Grand Steet in SoHo.