The Spirit of Kraemer 1875-2015
Kraemer is first and foremost an entire history, now reaching back 140 years. When you are inside the Maison Kraemer, you are not in a trading establishment or an art gallery: you are in their home. In fact, don’t we always say we are going “to the Kraemers”, without the person knowing which member of the family we are talking about, because they are such a whole entity, and without distinguishing between the display apartments and the convenience areas? That was what it was like in the so-called “hôtels particuliers” in the Plaine Monceau at the time when the Pereire brothers suggested the Camondos settle there.
Here, between the walls of number 43, rue de Monceau, the Kraemer hotel is a setting which is as important as the jewel it contains; but when it leaves its moorings to travel elsewhere, we rejoice, because it will go on to live another life and find a new radiance. Here, the family, a Kraemer family member in person, welcomes the visitor. For Olivier, Laurent, Mikael, Sandra and Alain, the welcome is in itself an expression of the style of the Maison. Anyone wishing to define it without oversimplification should consider the rigorous selection of objects, a certain taste anchored in the vision of a very French world as it lived and breathed between 1680 and 1790, a penchant for originality, not to mention scarcity. This is the family’s signature; because insofar as they rarely acquire from auctions, mostly sourcing from individuals, even if this implies search hi and lo everywhere in Europe or the United States, their furniture is not often seen in the market.
You have to ring and step through a massive door, not necessarily with an appointment beforehand, although the address itself is somewhat confidential. Just a plate on the facade, with the name and nothing else - even the lettering refrains from being too glossy. Against all expectation, the place is open to the public. Both the professional and the aficionado know that they will be welcomed. It is quite an experience to rub shoulders with people of such expertise, especially when they have enough distance to introduce themselves as purveyors of "luxury second-hand”. It is true that these antique dealers have such a strong dynastic fiber that the family is always present in these walls, with all the furniture, one could say they are in the field, ready to draw a screwdriver and a flashlight to make sure that everything, through to the tiniest chiseled gilt bronze element, is from the right period and has not suffered the insult of some unfortunate repair.
The venue makes one feel secure, because it is comfortable, sufficiently withdrawn to give the visitor the illusion of being outside of this world, in an 18th century garden suspended between the street and the Parc Monceau. Yet it has not remained untouched by the upheavals of the century: it was looted during the occupation of France by the Nazis, and Raymond Kraemer, with the help of his young son Philippe, had to start again from scratch in the aftermath of the war, and struggle for years before rebuilding a high quality inventory that enabled him to become once again a leader in his field.
Kraemer is one of the rare art galleries on the Paris scene that has established longstanding relations of trust with museums, and maintained relationships of such confidence that museums could purchase items from them without any doubt whatsoever as to the origin of the pieces, or could borrow them for exhibitions. Because the Curators know that these merchants have always been uncompromising with objects. In return, the Gallery can pride itself with owning museum quality furniture and art objects, the expression “de qualité muséale” being neither vain nor gratuitous, and can only be earned through the test of time.
CHow can period furniture, objects, tapestries and paintings manage to be dated without appearing outdated? A mystery that is bound to the genius loci, a phenomenon that is all the more practical that it is inexplicable. Likewise, one would find oneself hard-pressed to explain why, often, whatever is rare is beautiful.
One hundred and forty years have gone by since Lucien Kraemer established himself in Paris, after leaving his native Alsace occupied by the Prussians. The oldest invoice kept in the archives of the Maison, bearing the name of Baron Gustave de Rothschild, dates back to 1895. Over time, the assessment criteria for authenticity, rarity, originality, charm and beauty transmitted to the sixth generation, the Maison’s current young guard, have not changed, nor has the excitement of discovering an object waned in the least. Today, young lovers of art don't hesitate to dovetail an echo of the 18th century into a contemporary setting; convinced by the modernity of the approach, Kraemer encourages it within its own displays, - after all, some of the wall-panelling woodwork is even covered in Porsche steel grey!
Pierre Assouline, author
For over a century, many pieces of furniture and objets d'art from the 18th century have passed through the Kraemer Gallery. Some are presently exhibited in the collections of the greatest museums in Europe and the United States: