centerlogobigAAD logo

enarzh-CNnlfrdehiplrues
Antiques

Wither Biennale des Antiquaires? Does it succeed in its aim of being the highest of high-end international art fairs? As it changes - as all international art fairs much change - where will it go next? Le Figaro talks about the "chute" of international dealers, and the high price of exhibiting (1100 Euros per m2). As all of us in the art trade know, the race for the best, most unique artworks / objects is never-ending. As is the competition for the highest quality fair. Is that the Biennale? Inquiring minds want to know (as do both art buyers and members of the trade).

Now I am second to none in my appreciation of fabulous high- heeled shoes (hint for all those who were looking for presents for my upcoming birthday - red soles are best). But does wearing fabulous shoes translate into buying fabulous objects and art?

No doubt about it, Biennale des Antiquaires is an extraordinary fair. Founded in 1956, with jewellry added into the mix in 1962, (with dealer grumbling ever since) it is also remarkably long-running. In its current incarnation, I don't think I have ever seen such excess, so meticulously presented, and with such savoir-faire. It is indeed so over the top, you can't even see the top from there. And given the entrance fee of 30 Euros (a catalogue was an additional 45), well it should be.

Witherby 1

WITHER BIENNALE DES ANTIQUAIRES, DOES IT SUCCEED?
September 16, 2014

MAURA HAVERLY

Wither Biennale des Antiquaires? Does it succeed in its aim of being the highest of high-end international art fairs? As it changes - as all international art fairs much change - where will it go next? Le Figaro talks about the "chute" of international dealers, and the high price of exhibiting (1100 Euros per m2). As all of us in the art trade know, the race for the best, most unique artworks / objects is never-ending. As is the competition for the highest quality fair. Is that the Biennale? Inquiring minds want to know (as do both art buyers and members of the trade).

Now I am second to none in my appreciation of fabulous high- heeled shoes (hint for all those who were looking for presents for my upcoming birthday - red soles are best). But does wearing fabulous shoes translate into buying fabulous objects and art?

Witherby 2NEWNo doubt about it, Biennale des Antiquaires is an extraordinary fair. Founded in 1956, with jewellry added into the mix in 1962, (with dealer grumbling ever since) it is also remarkably long-running. In its current incarnation, I don't think I have ever seen such excess, so meticulously presented, and with such savoir-faire. It is indeed so over the top, you can't even see the top from there. And given the entrance fee of 30 Euros (a catalogue was an additional 45), well it should be.

I have long been a fan of the fair. I had friends who exhibited there and as long as 10 years ago, I remember thinking it had beautiful objects, and wonderful things, but it was a bit, well, faded. However, the Biennale has done something remarkable for a fair, it has recreated itself into something spectacular. AAD had reviewed the Biennale 2 years ago (when Karl Lagerfeld designed the event) and I will admit I thought the review was a bit, um, fulsome in its praise. Now I believe it was understated.

Designed this year by Jacques Grange, who had previously designed booths for exhibitors including Didier Aaron, it takes its inspiration from Versailles. Complemented by a fountain, created by perfumer Francis Kurdjian and filled with rose-scented water, there were also 300 trees installed, and 75 benches dotted around the Fair, inspired by the ones for weary visitors in the gardens of Versailles. Oh, and a restaurant featuring meals by 11 Michelin starred chefs (1 per day). Due to space constraints this year, it presents a slimmed down version, with 89 (mostly French) exhibitors, down from 2012's, 115.

The press preview this year saw the jewellers mobbed, with mainly young Asian clients dressed in Chanel and Dior, taking photos, trying things on, and asking prices. Not many sales were in evidence at the preview. The high-end art business right now is for international visitors to Paris. There were not a lot of Russians present, and very few Americans, or English...but maybe they came later.

Hard to pick a favorite piece, with so many wonderful things- and talented designers represented, but the spectacular flowers by Chinese jeweller Wallace Chan were especially beautiful.

Witherby 3

Flowers by Wallace Chan

Antiquities were also note-worthy. The stand of Galerie Chenel, designed by Ito Morabito was spectacular (a word I used often during this fair). A 6-time exhibitor, Olliver Chenel said he found new- primarily European clients at every show. Considering he has a pretty spiffy Paris gallery, that’s no small feat.

Mitterrand Gallery (formerly known as JGM) had a stunning exhibition showcasing the work of Francois-Xavier Lalanne. Not only did it have a bronze gorilla that at 1.6 m tall also doubled usefully as a safe, it also had a rather stunning pair of alligator benches. Which might harmonize with my rather attractive alligator handbag. Although the benches are perhaps pricier. On the other hand, who can sit on a handbag?

Witherby 4

Francois Pompon's Ours Blanc :: Proof Number 1

From Galerie Malaquais, led by Jean-Baptiste Auffret was one of the objects I most wanted to take home (jewellry not withstanding). Known to every visitor to the Louvre, the stand had, amongst other treasures, bronze proof #1 of Francois Pompon's Ours blanc (polar bear), priced at 580,000 Euros, which was much admired and was also included in the Fair catalogue.

There were several modern and contemporary galleries showing, although, frankly not as many as I had hoped. Marlborough was there, with an exhibition of Juan Genoves, and Works by Fontana seemed numerous at other galleries, but the old masters were especially eye-catching. Galerie Florence de Voldere had a number of Flemish paintings, notably one by Jan Brueghel the Younger, priced at 470,000 Euros. All the pictures were lit like jewels...hard to pick just one.

Most over-the-top object? Hard to say, but the impressive silver equestrian statue by Froment Meurice & A. Lanson would be in contention. Shown in the shining silver booth of specialist Emmanuel Redon, the original plaster is in the Musee des Beaux Arts.

Witherby5

Most adorable object? No contest. The Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) terra cotta rabbits at Galerie Christian Deydier, a bargain at 2000 Euros each (several had been sold before the preview).

Witherby6

Han Dynasty Rabbits

Kudos to Herve Aaron, the President of the Biennale Commission and the staff of the Biennale des Antiquaires for creating such an astonishing event. And bringing together a group of dealers with widely different viewpoints (the grumbles have been much aired). My only change, personally, would be a little less jewellry, and a little more art.

But will the next fair include more international exhibitors? Besides having an international group of "sponsors", will it bring more international buyers? And most importantly, from my point of view, who will provide the champagne for the next Biennale?

Maura Haverly