The autumn season begins in Paris with the return of the Biennale des Antiquaires – in its new guise as the Biennale Paris (11–17 September). Although the fair’s organiser, the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA), has transformed it into an annual event, the decision to retain ‘Biennale’ in the name reflects continuity with the past as well as a desire to look to the future. As Mathias Ary Jan, who has succeeded Dominique Chevalier as the president of the SNA, explains, the change in frequency comes from a need ‘to stand face to face with the competition’.
Ary Jan has spoken of his wish to emphasise the fine art and antiques elements of the fair and to increase the event’s appeal to the most serious collectors. The latest president of the fair – the American collector Christopher Forbes, who was appointed last November – unquestionably fulfils Ary Jan’s criterion of looking for ‘a foreigner, who loves France, and who has international stature’. Further emphasis on serious connoisseurship can be seen in the choice of the focus exhibition at this year’s fair: ‘The Barbier-Mueller Collections: 110 Years of Passion’. The display includes works from the collections of four generations of the Barbier-Mueller family, and pays particular tribute to the late Jean-Paul Barbier-Mueller (1930–2016).
The particular strengths of the Biennale are of course in French fine and decorative arts. Eric Coatalem presents a charming unpublished work by Jean-Baptiste Greuze – Young Boy Sleeping, a preliminary study for the soundly sleeping child in the artist’s Silence! (1759), which is now in the Royal Collection. Meanwhile, among the Impressionist and modern paintings on view at Helene Bailly Gallery is a nude by Renoir from 1883, depicting his model and (later) wife, Aline Charigot, as a bather in the manner of a Venus Pudica.
London-based haute époque specialist Mullany will once again recreate a medieval cloister on its stand, which this year includes a Sicilian alabaster Madonna and Child of around 1450 with traces of its original polychrome and gilding. The statue – a miniature copy of the lifesize marble Madonna and Child in the Basilica of Maria Santissima Annunziata in Trapani, Sicily – shows expert craftsmanship in the intricate drapery of the Madonna’s robes and the graceful interplay between the two figures.
Jewellery continues to make a strong showing. Among Boghossian’s offerings is a spectacular necklace and earrings consisting of diamonds set into white gold, using the ‘Les Merveilles’ technique the jeweller first unveiled at the Biennale last year. Among the highlights of 20th-century furniture, Robertaebasta brings a walnut-veneered cabinet designed by Gio Ponti in 1932 (to carry the complete works of Gabriele D’Annunzio).
While in Paris, don’t forget to leave the Grand Palais and the right bank to explore the Carré Rive Gauche area, where 110 dealers and galleries open their doors for ‘Flâneur au Carré’ (7–16 September); the event overlaps with the Parcours de la Céramique et des Arts du Feu (11–17 September), in which 24 exhibitors present ceramics, glass, and enamel works. And don’t miss ‘Masterpieces of French Art’ at Franck Baulme Fine Arts (8–30 September), which includes portraits by masters such as Nicolas de Largillière and Hyacinthe Rigaud.
La Biennale Paris takes place at the Grand Palais, Paris, from 11–17
From the September 2017 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.