In the 1950s, the founding mission of this now luxurious international art event in Paris was to create an antique dealers’ salon where ‘the beauty of the objects on show could compete with that of the women who come visit the exhibition, a venue where elegance, prestige and celebration would await a host of art lovers and collectors’. It was more than achieved with this 26th Biennale des Antiquaires showing world-class objects, with an emphasis on spectacular jewellery, (Cartier, Boucheron, Chanel, Chaumet and Bulgari as well as Wallace Chan) viewed in the mythical Grand Palais that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
The organiser, Christian Deydier, an eminent Chinese antique dealer and President of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, spared no effort and worked with Karl Lagerfeld, the famous designer, to create a setting that would welcome 100,000 visitors and serve a gala dinner for 1,400 VIP guests. Two thirds of those who participated in the opening dinner were foreigners. Among them were 200 Asian VIPS as well as Ukrainians and Americans.
The objective of this Biennale was to demonstrate the best in french lifestyle. Lagerfeld, a serious collector of 18th century french furniture, Art deco and an avid bibliophile, chose to reconstruct the luxury shopping streets of the late 19th century, starting with the legendary Champs-Elysées. The 7 kilometres of window shopping alleys, complete with 460 period-style copper lamps under the immense glass ceiling of the Grand Palais,showcased 121 french and international exhibitors, who were selected for the incontestable quality of their presented art works.
The highlight of the Biennale scenography was the majestic and peaceful presence of a 525m3 hot air ballon suspended 4.5 metres above the ground in reference to a 1909 aeronautic exhibition held at the Grand Palais.
The Biennale had a majority of French participants. France having the largest supply of antiques in the world, it is normal that the show's most prestigious antiques in the area would reflect this reality.
Participation in the Biennale is the most expensive of all the art fairs in the world. The chosen dealers pay between 1,000-1,600 euro per square metre in comparison to 330 euro per square metreat the TEFAF in Maastricht.
However this price is compensated by the visibility given to the Biennale participants. They are battling against the fierce market competition from the major auction houses and the downturn in french collectors who are now at the mercy of the France’s new wealth laws. The fair allows them direct access to foreign buyers, notably american and middle-eastern collectors as well as increasing numbers of discerning asian buyers.
I have provided a link to the Biennale catalogue where you can feast your eyes on the world-class art works that were on view:
My choice amongst the works exhibited were the following two items, the Pierre Gole desk exhibited by Galerie Didier Aaron and the Cicadabrooch presented by the Hong Kong jeweller Wallace Chan.
They are both works of art where the artists went through a 4-step process:
The cabinet maker Pierre Gole (c. 1620-1684) created this Louis XIV desk ‘bureau brisé’ in 1680 with a decoration of tortoise shell in laid in brass on pewter. The accompanying video(in french) shows you the supreme quality of the marquetry and architectural technique that was later attributed to Charles-André Boulle. It is an exquisite piece that marks the transition from the style Louis XIII to the style Louis XIV.
Wallace Chan’s gracious floating cicada, a symbol of purity, is composed of translucent imperial ejadeitie with its contours in diamonds .Its ruby eyes signify that Man desires material possessions.It holds a green jadeitie stone with a violet jadeite stone discreetly underneath.
It is a highly spiritual work that reflects the essence of Wallace Chan. (YouTube link)
Helen Szaday vonGizycki
Paris Fine Art Consulting