At Paris Biennale, Look if You Can’t Buy

Written by Valerie Gladstone for the New York Times :

Few events could so completely satisfy an escapist fantasy of a life lived in luxury than the Biennale des Antiquaires. Now in its 25th decadent year, the festival brings together exceptional antique art, jewelry and furniture at the glorious Grand Palais from Sept. 15 to 22. Art dealers, collectors, jewelers and anyone curious about great art can wander exhibitions as refined as the objects on display. And expect crowds: the last Biennale drew about 80,000 people.

?It?s one of the great art fairs of the world,? said Hervé Aaron, chairman of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires. ?It?s wonderful if you can buy ? probably the least expensive item on sale might be an ancient coin for 2,000 euros ? but if not, it?s still a wonderful place to enjoy an enormous number of breathtaking objects in exquisite circumstances.?

The atmospheric setting of the Biennale itself (Avenue Winston Churchill;
www.bdafrance.eu; admission 25 euros, or about $31.50), created by the architect Patrick Bazanan, features a dark, covered entrance with 25 alcoves full of roses. From there, a single, wide passageway leads to the stands, each of them framed by an arch and open on all sides. Along the way, visitors can linger in front of tinkling fountains and rest in secluded spots, surrounded by slender bamboos.

This should be ample preparation for the stepping-stone section on the balcony, where archaeological finds share the stage with Asian, Islamic, pre-Columbian and Oceanic art, as well as books and manuscripts, 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century furniture, sculpture, ceramics, Old Master and modern paintings and tapestries.

When asked about fair highlights, Mr. Aaron pointed to a pair of Chinese flying dragons in gilt bronze from the Tang Period (c. 618-907); stylized earrings with palm trees and antique faceted drop emeralds designed by Cartier; and paintings by Brueghel, Pissarro and Chagall. The Marlborough Gallery will exhibit Francis Bacon?s large-scale painting ?Three Studies of the Human Body,? from 1970. With an estimated value of 30 million euros (about $38 million), it will be probably the most expensive work at the Biennale.

So that all the senses are satisfied, visitors can even dine at the fair, at a pop-up restaurant from the well-respected Parisian caterer Potel et Chabot. At lunch and dinner, four chefs ? Alain Dutournier Gilles Tournadre, Davy Tissot and Jean-Georges Klein ? will alternate cooking; on Sept. 13, for the opening gala dinner, three chefs will be in charge.

XXV Biennale des Antiquaires, Grand Palais, 75008 Paris, M° line 1 or 9  Franklin Roosevelt

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