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Pannonica de Koenigswarter at The Gallery at Hermès

Jazz musicians and their three wishes

Pannonica de Koenigswarter supported the greatest names in jazz throughout the 1950s and 60s. Her Polaroids and writings are a precious record of their meetings and shared moments.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Pannonica de Koenigswarter at The Gallery at Hermès
© Pannonica de Koenigswarter. Courtesy of the Koenigswarter family

Pannonica de Koenigswater was an exceptional grande dame, born in London in 1913 and named for a wild plant of eastern Europe's Pannonia Plain, noted as a habitat of moths – which were a passion of her father's. A prophetic name indeed: "Nica" went on to become a noted figure on the late-night jazz scene, for many years a close associate of the greatest New York jazzmen of her day, to whom she devoted her life, her photography, her writings, her home – nicknamed The Cathouse by Thelonious Monk in reference to the hundred or so felines who lived under Nica's care, and the "cats" (jazz musicians, guys) of Black American slang. Pannonica bought the house specifically to provide hospitality for her musician friends, when her love of all-night jam sessions saw her banned from the grand hotels where she habitually stayed.

Pannonica was a friend, a patron and a muse to the musicians of her day: Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis… She photographed them all, and planned a book for which she asked three hundred jazz musicians to give their personal "three wishes".

"To be able to do what I want to do on the horn" said Sonny Rollins…
The exhibition, shown in 2007 at the Rencontres d’Arles, presents this body of work.

The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès supported the exhibition's visit to New York, Pannonica de Koenigswarter's home city. Nica herself was deeply touched by the initiative – a chapter in the history of music and photography, and a tribute to a generous, truly unconventional personality.

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