They inherited a legendary name and a colossal fortune. Today, the descendants of Aimé Maeght, the famous art dealer friend of Bonnard, Matisse and Chagall, are tearing each other apart.

DOMINIQUE PERRIN untangles the threads of this battle for memory, power and money.

The Maeght family

the art of War

The evening promised to be mild. After the worries of the day, Yoyo Maeght was happy to return home, to her house in Saint-Paul-de Vence, a famous village in the Nice hinterland. A few hours earlier, she had visited the Maeght Foundation, created by her beloved grandfather Aimé, to bring modern art to life. Suddenly, while she is on the phone, five gendarmes stop her in front of the entrance to her villa. They explain to him that a theft has just been committed at the foundation. Not a Giacometti nor a Miro, but a laptop of almost as inestimable value since its hard drive contains confidential information on part of the family inheritance (some 100 million euros) as well as the references of thousands of open. They want to search his home. “I said to them: “But anyway, how could I have carried a computer in my little Chanel bag? » she tells me today, her voice bruised by anger.

On September 28, 2010, the agents searched the house, the cars, the garden, without success. Then, they took Yoyo Maeght to the Vence gendarmerie. “I felt like I was in a movie,” she continues. An investigator even asked me to open my mouth to slide a long white stick in and took my DNA.” The computer belonged to her older sister. It was she, Isabelle, who filed the complaint. " It was too much ! I thought my head was going to explode,” says Yoyo. The perpetrator of the theft has not been identified. But this disastrous episode shattered the last civilities that remained between the entire Maeght dynasty. Now it's war. Yoyo and Isabelle only communicate through letters from lawyers.

Maeght, your merciless universe. For a long time, this name of Flemish origin (pronounced “Mag”) has inspired fear and admiration among artists and gallery owners. It awakened the memory of the great Aime Maeght, one of the most famous art dealers of the 20th century, friend of Braque, Matisse, Chagall and Giacometti. Today, the name rather evokes David's paintings of ancient Rome, where everyone sharpens their dagger behind the marble colonnades. On the one hand Isabelle, Jules (the youngest) and their father Adrien constitute the triumvirate at the head of the family business. On the other hand, Yoyo and her sister Florence pose as dissidents. The art world is asked to watch, stunned and helpless, at this sad family conflict. In the month of millet 2014, four years after his summons to the gendarmerie, Yoyo took up his pen to announce his sale. In a book entitled La Saga Maeght (Edition Robert Laffont), she devoted around fifty pages to the baseness and pettiness which, according to her, has been tearing the clan apart for twenty years. She paints an unflattering portrait of her father, a man who became a gallery owner “without passion”, “not a hard worker”, only guided by his “immediate pleasure”. Isabelle is presented as an “authoritarian” woman consumed by “jealousy” and “greed”. Those interested obviously did not appreciate it. “I had this book analyzed by a lawyer,” Adrien told me. I could have taken it to court because at least seven pages are an attack on my private life and my honor – and four in the case of Isabelle.” Neither she nor he filed a complaint, however: “We thought it would give him publicity.”

the art of war vanity fair


Isabelle receives at the Maeght gallery rue du Bac in the heart of Saint Germain des Pres. She now runs the house. She is accompanied by an imposing labrador, Daphné. On the stairs, she points out a painting by the Italian painter Marco Del Re, her companion. The office is a small room filled with sculpture paintings and art books. Her long blonde hair is held back by sunglasses. She is wearing a beautiful Havana Saint Laurent outfit. “From Saint Laurent twenty-five years ago,” she said in her smoker’s voice. For a long time, she worked here alongside Yoyo, whose sense of worldliness she appreciated. Today, she struggles to remember her words: “I don't know where she gets this jealousy thing from. It's archival. I was so proud of her.” All these conflicts sadden me, she says. “You know, it's not easy for her to live with a shattered family. » She confides having lost 14 kg at the start of this story (“14 kg? Yoyo is surprised in front of me. This is the weight that I gained because of her.”) Isabelle refuses to analyze the reasons for their hostility. Poorly healed childhood wounds? Dizziness of inheritance? “No, money is not the reason for the conflict,” replied the youngest Jules, wearing dark glasses and a ponytail. In a burst of lucidity he adds “Finally! Look at us. We need a psychologist for everyone”

Aimé Maeght dreamed of being an artist. He grew up in Hazebrouck near Lille, the eldest of four children, in bourgeois comfort until his father died at the start of the First World War. Loved at 8 years old, the family was taken care of by the Red Cross who found him new accommodation in Grand Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort. The child from the North will become neither a painter nor a musician, but a lithographer in a printing house in Cannes. Seductive and ambitious, the young man has good looks, a haughty bearing, and a piercing gaze. He falls in love with Marguerite, a girl with a strong character who is called “Guiguite”. Married in 1928, Adrien was born two years later.

In 1932 the couple opened a TSF store a few steps from the Croisette. Aimé transforms the back room into a graphics workshop. In the middle of the window, Marguerite sometimes hangs creations signed by local artists. The shop is gradually transformed and becomes the Arte gallery. At the start of the Second World War it attracted a clientele of Parisians and foreign refugees in the free zone. In 1942, Marguerite and Aimé had another son Bernard. That year, they met Pierre Bonnard, who worked on the heights of Cannes. The painter seems extinguished by grief: Marthe, his wife of almost fifty years, his model, the one who inspires many of his paintings, with her long legs and small round breasts, has just died. The circumstances of the meeting with the Maeghts remain unclear, according to biographers Annie and Michel Gall (Maeght the magnificent, Christian de Bartillat editions, 1999). Does the artist go to the gallery? Will Marguerite ring her doorbell? Still, Bonnard became “the friend, the guide of the Maeght, and Aimé, his merchant and his favorite interlocutor”, write the two authors. In 1943, as the war made life more difficult on the coast, Aimé, Marguerite and their sons took refuge in the hinterland, in Vence. In this delightful village, they meet a friend of Bonnard: Henri Matisse.

Peace returns and Aimé dreams of conquering Paris. He set up shop in Tehran, in the very chic 8th arrondissement, where he opened the Maeght gallery, with an exhibition of Matisse. Marguerite watches over the accounts. The first times are precarious. But in 1947, success was announced, thanks to two events: the Braque exhibition, then the second international exhibition of surrealism, produced by André Breton, which attracted nearly 150,000 visitors in a few months. The cover of the catalog, signed by the painter Marcel Duchamp, represents a plastic breast on a black velvet background with the words: “Please touch”. In 1948, Joan Miro was famous at the Maeght gallery. “The most snobbish opening that the rue de Téhran has ever known,” note Annie and Michel Gall. In the crowd of visitors, artists (Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall), writers (François Mauriac, Paul Eluard, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre) and fashion designers (Christian Dior, Emile-Maurice Hermès) meet. All of Paris shines in front of young Aimé.

the marght family

the maeght family


His son Adrien treasured these moments of excitement in his memory. The 84-year-old man, with white hair and small lively eyes, is completely reserved, far from the flamboyance of his father. He welcomes me to his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, not far from Yoyo's villa, with whom he has been angry for years. In the living room, large white sofas, a giant Shorthaired Pointer, a Giacometti painting, a Calder mobile. At his feet his dogs, Fifi and Hula, watch when the sky thunders. The lamps go out, downpours fall on the garden. Adrien grabs an old flashlight and puts the lead back on: “It’s nothing,” he smiles, “just another disturbance…”


He grew up between “a father with crazy ideas” and a mother who was “intelligent, gifted with a fierce sense of humor”. In Vence, when he brought Matisse the morning pot of milk, his heart raced at the sight of Lydia Delectorskaya, the artist's muse. “A beautiful woman… She had a slight Russian accent. I was crazy about her. She called me Dédé.” At 16, Adrien joined his father at the gallery. At the beginning of the 1950s, his little brother Bernard fell ill. Leukemia. “For months, I took him to the Curie Institute,” remembers Adrien. He would do rays, then we would come home and I would go to work in the afternoon. » One day in November 1953, life passed away: “My parents were in the living room, Bernard died in my arms. »

The tragedy changed the existence of the Maeghts. Make way for sadness, for things left unsaid. At the gallery headquarters, Adrien set his sights on Paule, the secretary, who gave birth, in May 1955, to Isabelle. He is unaware that, two months earlier, his father also had a little girl with a woman he has secretly loved for years.

the maeght family

When Adrien discovers the existence of this half-sister, the family explodes. “I warned my father: “Tell my mother, otherwise I will do it myself. » Aimé told him everything. And the story has damaged our relationships. » A few months later, Adrien slammed the gallery door. He will never set foot there again. (He opened his own gallery, rue du Bac, in 1956.)

Marguerite is devastated, Aimé wants to stop everything. Georges Braque suggests that they embark on a grandiose project, in memory of Bernard. The couple threw themselves body and soul into creating the Saint-Paul-de-Vence foundation. “We will create a unique work in the world that will remain over time and in people’s minds,” Aimé wrote to his friend Joan Miro. He called on the Catalan architect Josep Lluis Sert. From the mourning of their child, from their chaotic loves, a masterpiece is born, with this wave-shaped roof, this garden populated with works by Miro or Calder, this terrace where the sculptures of Giacometti dance and these pools where Braque's fish seem to be waving. The place was inaugurated in 1964 by the Minister of Culture André Malraux. A major exhibition is scheduled there every summer, under the leadership of director Jean-Louis Prat, Aimé's spiritual son. We also imagine avant-garde musical nights, we invite musicians Sun Ra or Pierre Boulez, dancers Merce Cunningham or John Cage… “I fell in love with art in this place when I was studying the economy,” Kamel Mennour, one of the most famous Parisian gallery owners, told me.

Aimé's secret child is now 60 years old. Her name is Sylvie Baltazart-Eon. She is a gentle and refined woman who welcomes me into her Parisian home. She never told the details of her story, neither to her in-laws nor to journalists. Its interior is decorated with part of its heritage: works by Miro, Rebeyrolle… There is even a mosaic of Braque - a bird - in the garden. Sylvie resembles her aunt Isabelle, but more serene. She smokes almost as much. Without bitterness, she recounts a life “à la Mazarine Pingeot”. “Mom started working at 15, at the start of the war, in my father's shop in Cannes. I don't know when their relationship began, but they wrote passionate letters to each other almost every day. » She kept a suitcase full of them. “When mom got pregnant, Aimé asked her to look after the baby. His son had just died, his wife was old, maybe she couldn't have other children, I don't know..." Sylvie remembers an attentive and anxious father: "As soon as my nose bled, he took me for blood tests to make sure I didn't have leukemia. » Aimé Maeght's daughter lights a cigarette again. In front of me, she reconstructs the exchange between the lover and the legitimate wife, when the latter learned of his birth.

“Did you have a child?” » asked Marguerite.

- Yes, my mother replied.

- Is it my husband's?

- Yes. It's a small one.

- I want to see her. »

Sylvie smiles: “When Marguerite saw me, with my light, Flemish complexion, she said that I was indeed a Maeght. She even offered to adopt me. Mom refused. But later, I got into the habit of seeing Marguerite sometimes, without my father knowing. She was always kind to me. » Sylvie was recognized by Aimé in 1973, with Marguerite’s blessing.


The model wife died in 1977 of a pulmonary embolism. Then begins the cursed mechanism of inheritance which, since then, has continued to plague the family. Aimé discovers by reading the will that his wife, “Guiguite”, intends to bequeath her entire share of the inheritance to her beloved son, Adrien. Annoyances, letters from lawyers. A judicial administrator was appointed, father and son ended up signing, in 1980, a partition deed. But the art dealer died the following year. This time, the succession turns out to be even more complex. For more than a year, Isabelle and her aunt Sylvie began inventorying the works. There are more than 3,000 of them. According to the law of the time, Adrien inherits three-quarters of the assets, while his half-sister recovers the rest. But he notes that his father, shortly before his death, entrusted his gallery under rental management to his four main collaborators, who sold numerous paintings. He also bequeathed the shares of the gallery to five recipients: three partners, Sylvie and Jules, the last grandson. Nothing for him. Adrien knew well that his father hardly held him in his heart, he who always preferred car racing to contemporary art openings. This time, the truth hits him in the face. The biggest Parisian lawyers are called upon to find arbitration. Jean-Denis Bredin intervenes on behalf of the Maeght gallery, Georges Kiejman and Yves Attal for Sylvie, Jean-Michel Danois and Paul Lombard for Adrien. The family is shaken. In his autobiography, Yoyo Maeght recounts the suffering of seeing his father “manhandled and discredited”. After seven years of negotiations, the different parties signed an agreement, Adrien and Sylvie recovered a large part of the works, Aimé's former associates, in particular Daniel Lelong, had to give up the sales, the gallery paid royalties to the children to keep the name Maeght-Lelong for some time, before becoming Galerie Lelong at the end of the 1980s. Adrien never forgave Daniel Lelong: “I was too kind. I crashed in front of him and lost a lot of money. » (Daniel Lelong, contacted by Vanity Fair, did not wish to answer our questions.)

the maeght family

After two painful successions, the heir then promised himself never to experience such a tragedy again.

But tension rises between two of his daughters Isabelle and Yoyo. The eldest, who directs the Parisian gallery, also chairs the foundation. Yoyo, she has to make do with Maeght editions, specializing in lithographs and posters. She feels cramped, wants more responsibility. She says she swore to herself at her grandfather's funeral to protect his memory. For her, there is an emergency, the foundation of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is stagnating, admissions are falling. She has a thousand ideas to relaunch the “Maeght brand”.

In 2006, she embarked on the fantastical project of her billionaire friend Alexandre Allard who, before restoring the Royal Monceau, wanted to install a large artistic-commercial site in the historic center of Beijing. Yoyo dreams of opening a Maeght gallery there. She multiplies the return trips to China and the expenses for a company which will never see the light of day. At the same time, in anticipation of the Giacometti exhibition, she called on the services of a friend, Philippe Gurdjian, a former advertising executive with the appearance of a playboy, expertly crafted gray locks, always tanned complexion. This car racing enthusiast has a reputation for knowing how to stage major events. He prides himself on having renovated the Paul Ricard circuit in the Var, before launching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, at the request of Hernie Ecclestone, the great world financier of Formula 1.


Philippe Gurdjian displays great confidence in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. He and Yoyo recruit a new administrative secretary, Pascal Ripoll, who immediately decides to clean up. “The foundation was managed like a neighborhood grocery store,” recalls the employee, who today says he takes care of the assets of a Saudi businessman. I immediately noticed big financial problems, everyone was navigating, it was a big artistic blur.

the maeght family

To make up for the losses, the father wrote a check from time to time. » Relations between Isabelle and Yoyo become even worse. The little sister believes that her older sister doesn't listen to her enough. She bombards her with emails. “My Isa, I tell you again, protect yourself! You want to regulate everything, control everything, but you are not capable of doing it, perhaps I am not any more, but I know that we must put competent people in the right places. » The chief accountant can't stand the atmosphere.

If it was just a financial problem, IT WOULD BE EASY.”

Jean-Michel Darrois

She reported “moral harassment” to the labor inspectorate. Pascal Ripoll resigned in August, after managing the successful Giacometti exhibition. “Yoyo demonstrated its know-how,” remembers Olivier Picasso, Pablo’s grandson. There were a lot of sponsors, lots of articles in the crowd. During the opening, the four children were gathered around their father. I thought, “That’s it, the Maeghts are back.” »

In reality, the family is on the verge of implosion. The presence of Gurdjian, the playboy, increases tensions. He wishes to reorganize commercial activities, increase financing, manage the Maeght's real estate assets. The deal ? In exchange for remuneration of 10,000 euros per month and commissions (5% on real estate sales, 10% on sponsorship contracts) he takes care of everything. Adrien is shocked: “I refused everything,” he tells me. And why not transfer all my assets to Luxembourg, while it was there! » Yoyo doesn't understand her reservations. She who wanted to develop the Maeght name as “a luxury brand” feels discredited. Especially since the eldest, Isabelle, who had once approved Gurdjian's proposal, follows the father's line.

During the summer of 2010, Yoyo wrote a letter to the prefect of Alpes-Maritimes, who sits on the foundation's board of directors, to complain about a “total absence of management”. Her father appreciates it, especially since she also asks Isabelle for details about her inheritance, always by email. After a triple heart bypass, Adrien bequeathed part of his fortune to his children in December 2005. On part of his assets, he established a donation-sharing, a technique of early transmission, which allows - normally - to avoid any conflict. He gave 60% of the works to his four children and almost all of his real estate. According to this contract, everything remains in a common pot managed by Isabelle and Adrien, while waiting for the latter to share it. Magistrate at the Paris commercial court, Yoyo does not disdain the figures and wants to know why she has not received, as expected, her share of the sales of paintings since 2005. She proposes to proceed with the sharing, in short to collect everything from continues his share of inheritance, and multiplies the registered letters. For her part, Isabelle asks the gallery's accountants not to give any information “to a third party”. Logically, Yoyo takes it for herself. The third sister, Florence, who runs a fabric shop a stone's throw from the gallery, suggests conciliation meetings. They end in psychodramas. At the end of August, Adrien is convinced that his daughter Yoyo wants to make the foundation “a money pump”. He nevertheless agrees to carry out the sharing. On September 7, 2010, the four brothers and sisters met at 3 p.m. at the gallery in Paris. Yoyo asks to see the accounts again. Suddenly Isabelle notices that her sister is recording the meeting: “Damn, you’re recording, what a bitch!” It's against the law, it's a shame! »

Jules: “It’s not prohibited by law, it’s not done, it’s stupid. »

It was at the end of this somewhat tense month that Yoyo found himself at the Vence gendarmerie. (The computer was never found and the case was dismissed).

On December 21, 2010, Yoyo and Florence sent their first summons to Jules, Adrien and Isabelle to request the division of property before the end of the year. “It was December 22, remembers the latter, The 8th anniversary of mom's death, that was the worst…” On December 27, the two sisters sent a second summons, in order to collect their share sales of paintings on donations. “You don’t like my Christmas present?” », says Yoyo to Isabelle while they are working at the gallery. The insults are flying, as are the procedures. In March 2011, the foundation's board pushed Yoyo to resign. Isabelle, who owns the majority of the signatures, along with those of her father and Jules, dismisses Yoyo from his position as CEO of the editions as well as from his mandate on the gallery board. Yoyo is removed from the Maegh company.

the maeght family


The father still hopes to bring peace. On October 24, 2011, he proceeded to share, and divided a little more than 2,000 works into four lots. He keeps 300 others for himself (including the three most expensive, the three Portraits of Marguerite Maeght by Giacometti estimated in 2005 at 1.2 million euros each). Yoyo considers the distribution unfair. She believes that we should have taken the prices of 2011, the year of sharing, and not those of 2005, to take into account the evolution of the art market. She feels wronged and recalculates everything. Based on sales published on Art Price in 2011, the paintings owned by her father would, according to her, be worth 213 million euros. He would then have to give each child around 32 million euros. But her prize would only be worth 15 million euros. “It’s very difficult to share tables,” comments Adrien’s lawyer, Jean-Michel Darrois, who advises many CAC 40 bosses. As the Maeghts are very suspicious, there is always one who has the feeling of being rolled over. » Only Isabelle and Jules accept their share of the inheritance. Yoyo and Florence appeal to justice.

The courts find Yoyo wrong. On October 17, 2013, the Paris Court of Appeal validated the 2011 division. But the girl persisted and asked again that her lot be revalued. His father also paid him 1.15 million euros that he owed him from painting sales. “If it was just a financial problem, it would be easy,” sighs Jean-Michel Darrois. But as there are relationship problems, it will take time..." Adrien, who ended up recognizing an imbalance in the lots, is studying a way of rebalancing, via a sharing of real estate (worth 25 million dinars). 'euros in 2005, much more since then).

The inheritance caused the tribe to explode. Only Jules, the youngest, exiled in San Francisco, is doing well. Two years ago, he fled, with his wife and children, what he calls "family legal diarrhea", after accepting lot number 4 bequeathed by "the father". On November 13, 2014 he inaugurated the Jules Maeght Gallery, in Hayes Valley, not far from Twitter headquarters, with tributes from the press. Some 400 people came to admire the works of Miro, Kandinsky, Calder, Bury, but also contemporary Americans. With the Atlantic and a nine-hour difference, the family is less burdensome. And against all odds, Jules, the funniest, most casual of the heirs, is the one who succeeds today in bringing the Maeght spirit to life. In Saint-Paul-de-Vence too, the storm has passed. The foundation is recovering, the board of directors is calm, the number of visitors is increasing. The new director of the Palais de Tokyo, Olivier Kaeppelin, is responsible for re-enchanting the place. Last year, he gave carte blanche to Bernard Henni-Lévy for an exhibition on philosophy and painting, he is preparing another this summer dedicated to the painter Gérard Garouste. The man, dressed all in black, reassures himself by insisting on the autonomy of this public utility foundation. Officially, she does not depend on the family, even if small donations from Adrien are always welcome. The patriarch is also seeking to sell Calder's immense black sculpture exhibited in the gardens of Saint-Paul-de Vence for $20 million. This would allow it to expand the foundation's basements. And also to avoid some new conflicts with his children.