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Terry de Gunzburg: "Collecting Should Be Fun"

Published on , by Éric Jansen

"Collecting should be fun" goes the mantra of the star make-up artist and collector Terry de Gunzburg, who is opening a new store in Paris.

Terry de Gunzburg's New York apartment was decorated with the help of Jacques Grange,... Terry de Gunzburg:
Terry de Gunzburg's New York apartment was decorated with the help of Jacques Grange, and houses works by Francis Bacon, Serge Poliakoff, Georg Baselitz, Alexander Calder and, as shown here, Gilbert & George.
© Eric Jansen

Between her residences in London, New York and Paris, Terry de Gunzburg leads a highly appealing lifestyle mingling luxury, art and beauty. Many women are familiar with her beauty brand, By Terry. In the space of twenty years, the make-up artist, born into a wealthy Cairo family who fled Egypt in 1956, has transformed her experience into a success story. "I grew up with an intense love for museums and culture (…). I started off studying medicine, then I moved to Fine Arts. An aesthetics course with the Carita Sisters one summer changed my life completely," she tells the Gazette. Today, she is refurbishing her shop in the Galerie Véro-Dodat, in Paris's 1st arrondissement, to make it even more luxurious, and in September, she will be opening a little store dedicated to lifestyle not far away. There you will find not only tableware and ceramics but also works by young artists, because aside from make-up, Terry spends much of her time at fairs and auctions. With Jean de Gunzburg, whom she married 23 years ago, she has built up one of the finest collections of our time, where Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, Giacometti, Bacon and Rothko rub shoulders with Rateau, Dunand, Royère and Lalanne. And it is swelled virtually daily by 21st-century pieces. The couple live a simple life among their accumulated artefacts, and are delighted to show them. “I hate collectors who have masterpieces and never lend them. I know a few, and I find it very selfish,” she says. For her, collecting remains "a pleasure", without which life wouldn’t be worth living.

Terry de Gunzburg
International make-up artist and collector

Terry de Gunzburg
Terry de Gunzburg© Eric Jansen

Why did you want to open a new store in Paris?
To offer something other than make-up: crazy works that are not commercial – gigantic perfume bottles shaped like baptismal fonts, lacquered Chinese writing boxes, straw marquetry caskets, and works by artists I want to spotlight. It’s a real "Terry’s choice".

You stayed fifteen years with Yves Saint Laurent. Was it he who inspired you to start collecting?  
No, it started when I was fourteen, I used to go to Drouot with my aunt. I bought tableware by the kilo, and I got plenty of bargains! Later, every Saturday morning, I would go to the flea market, ready to pounce on goods straight off the truck. As soon as I had a bit of money, I would spend it on Art Deco objects, ceramics, gold and silverware, artists’ jewellery and photographs. I did advertisements with Dominique Issermann and Bettina Rheims; it paid well, but I was always broke! My "star make-up artist" status took me into some really beautiful apartments. I went to Hélène David-Weill’s, and Nan Kempner’s, in New York, and when you’re working with Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, you develop an eye as well...
"The great purchases are always the ones that hurt, that go far beyond what you thought you would invest."
Do you remember the first really expensive work you bought?
Yes, a ceramic piece by Picasso, which my nephew has just broken. That's life! (…) One shouldn’t over-dramatise things. Art is there for pleasure, and collecting should be fun. I hate that money carries so much weight. The children used to play with Giacometti’s “Walking Men” and I now have twelve grandchildren, who are told to be careful when they go to Granny Terry’s – but they still go roller-skating around between the works.

Now everyone talks about how much money a work cost: does this bother you?  
It’s horrible. When I go into a gallery and I’m told "you have to buy this artist now because he’s going to be worth a fortune soon", I say "you can keep him".

Some say you are bulimic…
Maybe, but not to make myself vomit later. I don’t punish myself! And I’m not insatiable. But I admit I derive enormous pleasure from buying. I have just been offered some black and white Murano lanterns from 1930 that used to be in a palace. They’re so beautiful that I just can’t miss this opportunity. I almost had an orgasm when I saw them! That's never happened to me with a crocodile leather bag!
By Terry, 36 Galerie Véro-Dodat, Paris.
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