From 6th to 9th July 2020, Artcurial will showcase the world of Michou, the irreplaceable legend of Parisian night life, whose real name was Michel Catty. Affectionately known as the Blue Prince of Montmartre, he gave his name to the famous “transformist” cabaret at 80, rue des Martyrs in Paris. A master of dreams and illusions, the exhibition will highlight a less well-known side of his personality. Over the years and through his acquaintances, this discerning collector acquired numerous modern works of art, neoclassical sculptures and pieces of furniture. This unique collection, numbering some 300 pieces, will be brought to auction at the sale taking place on 10th July 2020.
“Transformism is a trick, a dream, and it is spectacular”
The cabaret Chez Michou adventure began on 13th July 1956, when Michou took over the management of the Chez Madame Untel bar. Five years later, he hit upon the idea of launching a show featuring the most flamboyant of drag queens, along with two friends, Lucien and Eugène. Cue Miss Glassex (alias Michou), la Grande Eugène and Phosphatine. Buoyed by their success, the three friends were soon joined by a dozen artists, and so their family of Michettes (servers who doubled as performers) began to grow. As the years and shows went by, the magical parties at Chez Michou attracted the brightest stars of the time, including Alain Delon, Joséphine Baker, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacques Chirac, Georges Brassens, Romy Schneider and Dalida. Inextricably linked with his establishment, the personality of the club’s creator also inspired the period’s film makers, for example Jean Poiret and his film “La cage aux folles” (later adapted as The Birdcage) and Claude Lelouch and his movie “La bonne année” (Happy New Year).
It is thanks to his encounters with such luminaries and his friendships with the painters of the time that Michou was able to develop his personal collection. A common thread runs through the tasteful pieces he chose, one colour in particular that he made his own: blue. His favourite shade was also celebrated in the modern pieces that adorned every corner of his residence on the Butte Montmartre, at the foot of the Sacré Cœur. A major collection of modern paintings therefore makes up part of the sale, including works by Gen Paul, such as the oil on canvas Les Trompettistes, estimated at between €15,000 and €20,000, and seven paintings by Bernard Lorjou which have incredible intensity. However, works by Henry Bertin and Jean Marais also feature.
This blue thread that ran through the years also wound its way around the exceptional furniture that decorated Michou’s Montmartre apartment. Here, we find a mix of Maison Roméo pieces, including a Louis XIV-style commode crafted in blue lapis, estimated at between €2,000 and €3,000, a gilt wood console with a white marble top, and sculptures including a bronze Hermes after Jean Bologne.
This sale, which is a true tribute to Michou, will bring these works together one last time, set in a unique decor suggesting a new perspective on the man, whilst highlighting his taste in art and eclectic scenography.