Pierre Nahon, a French dealer and collector whose Paris-based Galerie Beaubourg showed work by Nouveaux Réalistes like Jean Tinguely, Arman, César, Niki de Saint Phalle, Arman, Yves Klein, and others in the beginning of their careers, has died at age 84. The newspaper Le Figaro was first to report the news.
Nahon and his wife, Marianne Bayet, established Galerie Beaubourg in 1973. It was among the first enterprises to exhibit work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, George Segal, Frank Stella, and other American artists in France. Of the gallery’s radical early exhibitions of avant-garde works by César and Arman, Nahon has said that “visitors were aggressive and shocked that we could exhibit such horrors to the public.”
“Their art was already exposed in museums but people didn’t really collect it at that time,” Nahon told Sotheby’s of the Nouveau Réalistes in the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nahon and Marianne would travel frequently to New York to meet American artists.
Born in Oran, Algeria, in 1935, Nahon married Bayet, an aspiring actress, after fighting in the Algerian War. They opened Galerie Beaubourg after closing a film production company they had run together, and throughout the course of the following decades, the couple began to establish an art collection of their own. Their holdings would come to include hundreds of works, including pieces by César, Arman, Klein, Warhol, Segal, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons, Anselm Kiefer, and more.
In recent years, Pierre and Marianne had kept their collection in Paris, Vence, and Venice, Italy. Sotheby’s auctioned 250 works from their holdings in a 2019 sale titled “Art Is Life” that achieved a total of €10.4 million (about $12.3 million). The top lot in that sale was Picabia’s painting Melibée (ca. 1931), which went for €3.9 million (about $4.6 million) and had appeared in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2016 retrospective of the artist in New York.