Félix Marcilhac, the Parisian art historian and dealer renowned for his prestigious Art Deco and Art Nouveau collection, died on January 29 at 78, according to the French-language newspaper Le Figaro. Marcilhac was an early champion of Art Nouveau and Art Deco on the international art market, with an eye for exceptional decorative arts pieces that were often undervalued or overlooked during the 20th century.
Marcilhac was born November 20, 1941. He earned degrees in economics and art history, and opened a gallery specializing in Art Deco on Paris’s rue Bonaparte in 1969. Operations at the gallery were eventually taken over by his son, Félix. Also a respected art historian, Marcilhac authored books on French painter Jacques Majorelle, Art Deco artist and designer Jean Dunand, sculptor Jules Sandoz, and decorator and furniture designer Andre Groult, among others.
He amassed over 300 Art Deco and Art Nouveau pieces in his private collection, including furniture by Jean-Michel Frank and Pierre Legrain and bronze sculpture by Gustave Miklos. In 2014, Marcilhac sold the entirety of his collection at the Sotheby’s auction house in Paris in 2014. The sale, which spanned two days, raked in €24.7 million (over $27 million) in sales, bringing the total to three times the auction’s low estimate. Among the top lots was a 1935 cabinet by Frank (€3.68 million, or roughly $4 million) and Miklos’ 1928 Tête Pièce Unique, a patinated bronze sculpture, which sold for €811,500 (about $900,000).
“This sale will remain in the annals of Art Deco. It has shown vividly that the creations of pre-war interior decorators are still considered icons of modernity and attract the greatest collectors,” Cécile Verdier, Sotheby’s Europe director of decorative arts of the 20th century, told Le Figaro after the auction.