Farewell to an icon of my youth

When I was growing up in Germany in the sixties, the word Playboy did not provoke images of naked women on glossy magazine pages or long-legged waitresses wearing skimpy bunny suits. It evoked images of Saint-Tropez, racing cars, and Brigitte Bardot. The playboy was Gunter Sachs, the heir of one of Germany’s biggest automobile suppliers, Fichtel & Sachs, who not only was rumored to have been romantically linked to Queen Soraya of Iran, but for three years was married to the most beautiful woman alive, the French actress Brigitte Bardot. He wed Bardot in Las Vegas in 1966 after having courted her by dropping hundreds of roses from his helicopter over her villa on the French Riviera. Sachs was not only the Playboy par excellence but a serious art collector, documentary filmmaker, and fine art photographer. Among the artists in his collection were Yves Klein, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. In 1972 Sachs opened a contemporary art gallery in Hamburg with an exhibition of works by Andy Warhol. From 1967 to 1975 he was co-president of “Modern Art Museum München,” an association that pursued the formation of a museum of modern art in Munich and organized exhibitions of contemporary artists (Georg Baselitz, Christo, Cy Twombly, and Roy Lichtenstein among them) at the Villa Stuck. In 1976 he received the prestigious Leica award for his own photographic work, and in 2008 the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig presented a major survey of Sachs’s work and life, entitled Gunter Sachs – Die Kunst ist weiblich (Gunter Sachs – Art is Female).

Gunter Sachs died by his own hand on May 7 at his residence in Gstaad, Switzerland.