The path of writing on the interiors is paved with stories folded like little origami birds in the folds of memory. I still remember opening a magazine one weekend morning in rue de Rivoli when I was a student in Paris. A totally exotic London interior tumbled from the pages, sloping eaves covered in Moroccan Maghreb arc textiles, gilded Egyptian crests and antique rosewater sprinklers shimmering against bold purple walls – the electric effect. How can I use the word inspiring without sounding banal? But it remains a seminal moment. The creator of this wunderkammer was the Indian art specialist whose name was on everyone’s lips: Amin Jaffer. It’s a full-circle moment that, nearly two decades later, we sit in his new home overlooking the Seine. The style has evolved but the impact of high tension remains.
Fast forward to the present day and Rwandan-born Jaffer is an eminence grise of the international art world, gliding between salons in Manhattan, Milan and Mayfair. Veiling his formidable knowledge under an elegant lightness, he has recently been working on the creation of a remarkable new private museum at the Hôtel de la Marine Place de la Concorde.
Closely involved with the city’s most important new museum and, in Jaffer’s words, “having become sensitive and accustomed to the continental way of life”, the curator began to seek a more permanent perch in Paris. “I was also spending a lot of time in Venice and the drive to London was getting tough.” The uprooting from his well-established English life, built over 25 years, was surprisingly not too much of a abandonment. “I am, fortunately, someone who likes change,” laughs Jaffer. “Even as a child, I had a strong feeling that life is short and you have to do whatever you want.”
On a scorching August day, as he entered the courtyard of this mansion on the historic Quai Voltaire, which borders the Left Bank, Jaffer knew he had found his new chapter. “It was the view of the Louvre that seduced me,” he says. “In a way, my artistic career began at the museum. When I was little, my mother took me to Paris and we spent a whole day wandering around her rooms, me with a camera… it was the spark that ignited. The serendipity seemed to strike further when Jaffer discovered that Vivant Denon, the Louvre’s first director, had resided in the building. Appointed by Napoleon, Denon transformed the museum from its pre-revolutionary chaos – where artists lived in residence and unlabeled works of art hung “frame by frame from floor to ceiling” – into a temple of “loot parades”. . Other notable inhabitants included the painter Ingres. Built in the 1670s on the grounds of a convent founded by Cardinal Mazarin, the building had just the pedigree for Jaffer to be won over and bid on a third-floor apartment with sweeping views over the river to the most grand palace of the arts. in the world.