Erik De Bourbon De Parme
Erik de Bourbon de Parme
Prince Erik de Bourbon de Parme, eldest son of Prince Michel de Bourbon de Parme and Princess Yolande de Broglie-Revel, died at the Palm Beach home of his devoted partner, Veronica Boswell, surrounded by his children, on Wednesday, January 20th at five minutes to midnight after a very courageous year-long battle with cancer.
Erik's historic heritage and large, intertwined family extends across the breadth of Europe, as did his life, which also went beyond Europe to the USA and the Americas. He was born in Denmark but was a French citizen. He was married and raised a family in Denmark, was active in the art world throughout Europe, and then also in the USA.
Erik's great and enduring interest was art, but in his early 20's, in Paris, his spirit of adventure took wing and whilst continuing to pursue art activities, he began to train for a pilot's licence. He continued this in the US, where his father lived part of the year, and on obtaining a helicopter licence, pursued missions including firefighting in California, flying corporate jets in Texas oil country and co-founding Ocean Air Helicopters in Southern Florida, a company active in tourism and television, as well as in government land surveying and in firefighting both in Florida and in Utah. Although by his later 20's he had returned once more to the art world, Erik never lost his love of cutting-edge mobility (perhaps he had inherited this from his father who was a Ferrari driver in the 1966 Le Mans and the 1964 Tour de France). Erik loved motor racing, particularly F1, as much as he loved flying. He was intolerant of bad driving and was himself an ace at navigating the most unnerving melees in the heart of Paris. He loved sailing, on occasion sailing single-handedly from France to Corsica, and he was fascinated and enthralled by the achievements of the US space programme.
But his real direction in life had formed in his early years in Paris, where, given his family heritage, he had early opportunity to develop an eye for period furniture, for antiques and for fine art in general, both classical and modern. In the 70's he co-founded an interior design business, "A Propos" in Paris. He also organized modern art exhibitions and later would go on to become an international art dealer, a collector and a curator. These activities flourished, particularly in Scandinavia, France and England, whilst he was happily married to his former wife, Countess Lidia Holstein-Ledreborg, and bringing up their children in Denmark. A notable exhibition he organized in Denmark was that of the artist Mihail Chemiakin at Ledreborg Palace and Museum, Denmark, in 1996. Chemiakin, with whom Erik established a personal friendship, is a well-known Russian painter, sculptor, stage designer and publisher, who, as the founder of the non-conforming St. Petersburg Group, was forced out of Russia, his work only returning with the beginning of the post-communist era in 1989.
A tool he used throughout his activities in the art world was technology, in which he was inherently interested. In 1995, he founded the company Arthema Ltd. (Cirencester, UK), which developed a truly pioneering Art website whose services targeted both professional and private individuals in the fields of collecting, dealing and research. (In early 2000, Arthema Ltd. merged with Thesaurus Ltd., a company which specialized in the recovery of stolen art).
More recently, and here in the Town of Palm Beach, Erik was very active at the Four Arts Club as Guest Curator of the "Terrific" 2018 Winston Churchill exhibition: "A Man For All Seasons: the Art of Winston Churchill. For his tireless effort on behalf of what became an extremely successful exhibition, he was invited to become a Fellow of The International Churchill Society, joining the ranks of such illustrious Fellows as Walter Cronkite, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Margaret Thatcher.
The exhibition was the brainchild of Edwina Sandys, non-conforming and thought-provoking artist.
Since 2015, Edwina and Erik had formed a close working relationship, and he was involved in the organization of her exhibitions and her very many creative projects. Above all, he established a computer database for her complete works and archives. Edwina and her sons maintained a very close friendship with Erik.
Less well-known here was the tireless curatorial and research work he carried out for the local private collection of the art of Hans Richter, early 20th Century painter, Dadaist and film-maker. The collection had been acquired from the artist's family in 2005 and was in a state of disarray. Over a period of years, with the collaboration of his partner, Veronica Boswell, and an excellent relationship with the artist's heirs, Erik organized the collection entirely. He integrated it with its archives, and uncovered opportunities for further important acquisitions.
It was as a result of this dedicated work that, in 2014, the collection became the backbone of the first major international Hans Richer Retrospective and the first major Hans Richter exhibition since the 1980's. Erik worked closely, both academically and administratively, with the museum staff of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and with those at Pompidou, both Metz and Paris. His enthusiasm and interest became well-known, as also his tireless patience and dependability. The exhibition opened at LACMA, and over the next two years moved on to the Pompidou Centre, Metz, and then on to the Walter Gropius Bau, Berlin and the Musee d'Arte, Lugano, Switzerland.
As a Richter expert, Erik contributed to a new 60- minute documentary about the life and art of Hans Richter: "Everything Turns, Everything Revolves". Hans Richter had witnessed the horrors and conflicts of war-torn Europe at the time of the two World Wars. Obliged to flee Nazi Germany and obtaining his US citizenship in 1941, he continued to believe that art had a social role to play, to the betterment of human life. He looms large at a time of seismic change, both in terms of the story of art and the human story.
Erik, who was Jesuit-educated, had a very strong work ethic. When he put his hand to a task or project, he committed to it until its completion. He was disciplined, did not procrastinate, and never gave up. The leaven was his good sense of humour. He enjoyed making people laugh and was as happy exchanging a joke with the Haitian friend bagging his groceries at Publix as with fellow guests at the Everglades Club. Children, dogs, and parrots too, were drawn to him, and he was noted for his many little kindnesses by people he encountered along the way. He was a loyal friend who went out of his way to help. He enjoyed the simple things of life: the daily baguette from the local French bakery, and, his fine background notwithstanding, he loved an afternoon spent at the South Florida Antiques Fair.
His real legacy, however, is his family. He was a devoted and loving father to his five wonderful children: Mrs. Martin Krusbaek, Princess Marie-Gabrielle de Bourbon de Parme, Princess Alexia de Bourbon de Parme, Prince Michel de Bourbon de Parme, Prince Henri de Bourbon de Parme, Their lives, their successes, their struggles were his own. Erik had hoped that one day he might contribute to or indeed found an organization to help children.
Erik was predeceased by his father, Prince Michel de Bourbon de Parme, and his mother, Princess Yolande de Broglie-Revel, and by his sisters Princess Ines de Bourbon de Parme and Princess Victoire de Bourbon de Parme. He is survived by a sister, Princess Sybil de Bourbon de Parme, a brother, Prince Charles Emmanuel de Bourbon de Parme, his five children and seven grandchildren, his longtime partner, Veronica Boswell, and his former wife, Countess Lidia Holstein-Ledreborg.
A memorial service at Ledreborg Castle, Denmark, will be announced at a later date.
Published by Palm Beach Daily News from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, 2021.
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