Gunter Sachs: making art at Badrutt’s Palace

Playboy, photographer, industrialist, art collector, not to mention sports and astrology enthusiast: Gunter Sachs was a St. Moritz icon, and Badrutt’s Palace Hotel was his favourite place to spend extravagant winter holidays.

Born in Germany to a well-to-do family (his maternal grandfather was one of the founders of the car manufacturer Opel), he studied mathematics and economics but became renowned around the world in general and in Europe in particular for being a playboy. There are rumours that the charming, well-educated young Gunter Sachs was romantically involved with many women, including the former Queen of Iran, Soraya Esfandiary. For a time, he was the heart and soul of the European jet set, rubbing shoulders with the Kennedys, Salvador Dalì, Gianni Agnelli, Coco Chanel and many others.

Despite his playboy reputation, Sachs was also a romantic, and he married three times. His first wife died tragically during surgery in 1958, leaving 26-year-old Gunter a very young widower. A few years later, Sachs met Brigitte Bardot and it was love at first sight. The French actress was filming scenes for a movie on Lake Geneva when Sachs first saw her. To impress her, he flew a helicopter over her house, releasing hundreds of roses into her garden. They married in Las Vegas in 1966. Although their marriage lasted just three years, the couple was wooed by the press from day one.

Sachs loved spending his winter holidays in the Swiss Alps and made St. Moritz his winter residence. His stays in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel were nothing short of legendary. An avid art collector, his amazing and extensive collection included masterpieces by Jean Fautrier, Andy Warhol, René Magritte, Salvador Dalì and Roy Lichtenstein; he was also the proud owner of important pieces from the school of nouveau réalisme (new realism), including works by Yves Klein, Arman and César. Many of these masters were involved in the design of the iconic pop-art apartment in Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, which quickly became a sensation around the world. The kitchen was decorated with all ten of Andy Warhol’s famous Marilyns, the bathroom was designed by Roy Lichtenstein – in short, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s penthouse was transformed into a work of art in itself. The legacy Sachs left Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is thus destined to endure.

As he said, it was like being on a cruise ship, sailing through the winter, with days spent on the daredevil Cresta run, at the Bob Club, of which he was president, or skiing and lunching on the slopes. By night, he would dine at Chesa Veglia, socialise in the Palace Grand Bar or dance at the King’s Club or the Dracula Club, which he founded with some similarly high-spirited friends in the seventies.

Times have certainly changed since the 1960s and so has the jet set, but one thing has remained the same: guests of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel can still breathe the same sophisticated, cosmopolitan air and recall a time when a great artist made a great penthouse even greater.