Biennale des Antiquaires - Part Two

The art market came alive in Paris last night as hundreds of dealers, collectors, curators and art aficionados poured into the Grand Palais to view some of the most exceptional objects on the market today. Once again, the Biennale did not disappoint even the most discerning visitor.

Recently renovated, the Grand Palais looked fabulous. The exhibition space was divided into quadrants, each depicting a different style of garden. The themes included an Exotic Forest, a Roseraie, a Japanese garden, and a Mediterranean garden. The extraordinary glass ceiling loomed overhead and shed light onto the exhibition hall until sunset.

The gallery spaces within the exhibition were clean and modern. Most of the exhibitors adopted a minimalist approach to displaying their goods, with straight lines, neutral tones and no architectural embellishment. This was a bit of a disappointment for me. When I’m in France, I like feel as if I’m at Louis XIV’s court, not a Calvin Klein boutique. Nonetheless, there were a few exhibitors that kept to tradition. Bernard Steinitz’ gallery was like a Fabergé egg, filled with crystal chandeliers, porcelain, gilt mirrors and marquetry embellished furniture.

This is a shopping experience like no other. Everything from impressionist paintings by Renoir, Degas, Corot and Cassatt to art deco furniture by Ruhlmann, Iribe and Gray was on display and available for purchase. If it wasn’t there, there was someone who could tell you where to get it.

As if that weren’t enough, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, de Grisogono and an array of other fine jewelry houses exhibited magnificent pieces. A pavé diamond necklace and a feather adorned tiara worn by the Maharaja were displayed at Cartier. De Grisogono offered a serpentine ruby encrusted bracelet. Harry Winston showed a 97 carat marquise diamond necklace set in platinum. Every jewelry house had amazing pieces.

The quality was unsurpassed. The Syndicat National des Antiquaires has very strict guidelines for the Biennale. If there is the slightest indication that a piece is not authentic, it is pulled from the exhibition.

In my view, Van Cleef & Arpels had the most impressive jewelry gallery. Van Cleef & Arpels paid homage to the décor of the Biennale with four large display cases, each depicting a style of garden. Each case held a central piece, such as an ornate necklace, and a variety of ancillary pieces that coordinated with it. For example, the French garden themed case held a necklace comprised of emerald cut emeralds and diamond baguettes arranged in a geometric pattern that imitates the parterres and pathways of a formal French garden. They were newly created pieces, but in the art deco style. Likewise, there were Italian Renaissance Garden, English Garden, and Japanese Garden inspired collections.

The evening began with flutes of Champagne served at the door to arriving guests. Shortly thereafter, an army of servers entered the hall from every direction with platters of the most beautifully displayed hors d’oeuvres provided by Potel & Chabot. There were several well-appointed bars that were easy to find, but strategically placed so they didn’t impede traffic flow. Likewise, small buffet and cabaret tables displayed an array of delicacies. Servers passed hors d’oeuvres and then dessert throughout the night.

There was a Club Privilegé, which offered reserved seating and table side service. It remained empty all night. Even the most privileged guests preferred to socialize and view the beautiful array of objects displayed in the galleries.

Interestingly, as I had never seen this before, several servers circulated the exhibition hall working from a small tri-pod table on wheels, the sort of table a painter would use next to an easel. Each server had a type of hors d’oeuvre, but with some slight variation in flavor: “Madame, Do you prefer duck or goose liver?”

Often, I don’t eat at these sorts of cocktails soirées because I find the task overwhelming. How does one hold a handbag, glass of Champagne and program while trying to put food in their mouth? That was not case last night.

I fell to sleep thinking about all the beautiful objects of art and trying to quantify the amount of food I must have consume


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