Kazumi Arikawa is impeccably chic in his dark suit, and has the typical courtesy and warmth of the Japanese. Every visitor is treated to a tea ceremony in a wood-paneled room set up in his office, where the solemn Gregorian chant is hardly conducive to having a laugh! With authority and incisive intelligence, Kazumi Arikawa explains that he is «on a mission: helping the world to understand the essence of jewelry – just as much of an art as painting and sculpture.» He believes that beauty can save the world from consumerism.
A Guiding Principle: Excellence
His personality is as fascinating as his collection. He began by buying a tiara by Fabergé, then others by jewelers like Cartier and Chaumet... causing the price of diadems to rocket in the early 2000s, although they were considered outdated in Europe. This collection ranging from Antiquity to the early 20th century seems eclectic to the novice, for antique jewelry rubs shoulders with Renaissance necklaces, medieval rings and Art Deco pieces. But an informed eye soon grasps the guiding principle: sheer excellence in terms of design, know-how, provenance – and price! As witness the 8.48 carat Burmese pigeon's blood ruby that belonged to Queen Marie-José or this cameo (another of his passions) of Napoleon, carved by Morelli, one of the greatest in his field.
Collector and Businessman
Unlike other major collectors, like Sheikh Hamad Al Thani (who focuses on Indian jewellery), Kazumi Arikawa is also a dealer, and sells pieces to jewelers and museums looking to enrich their heritage. For example, part of his tiara collection now belongs to the Qatar Museum. He has his own stores, including one at the Okura Hotel, decorated with a 4th century mosaic and a painting by Foujita – and thus worthy of stunning pieces selected for their “wearability and affordability.” Well, everything is relative...
The “Louvre for Jewelry”
Ten years ago, Kazumi Arikawa was only familiar to the very top curators. Since then, the businessman has cast aside his mask, thanks to a visibility campaign aimed at journalists, and prestigious exhi- bitions such as “Cartier, Crystallisation of time” in Tokyo, “A Newly Ordered World” in the Pforzheim Museum and a show in the School of Jewelry Art in Kyoto. Here he unveiled a magnificent group of 35 Art Nouveau pieces: the third largest after those of the Gulbenkian and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. He was also the main sponsor of “The Body Transformed” at the Met in New York, which I went to with him.
Kazumi Arikawa makes no bones about his strategy and ambition. We believe him when he claims to be the world’s leading collector, with no competitors in sight. He is quite rightly very proud of his library of 6,000 books, soon to be made available to researchers in Paris. But his ultimate goal is to create a museum for his collection: a kind of “Louvre for jewelry” in a Kyoto tem- ple listed as a national treasure. A treasure within a treasure...