I have been at the Montmarte in the past 3 weeks in the company of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It started with an exhibition of his colourful lithographs at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, which immediately triggered the re-read of the artist’s exciting life biography written by Pierre La Mure (I encourage you to obtain it). Perfect timing as I was on my way to the manifesto of French artistic pride, the Biennale des Antiquaires.
I finished the book in the sunny garden of Petit Palais, 113 years to the day he passed away. The beautiful building, herald of the fertile age I’m in love so much, gave the script a natural space to elevate and brought me in an irresistible mood to explore Paris, the Montmarte and the blue-white-red sanctuary of arts, the Biennale.
The Petit Palais was built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and it now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris). With a short walk, on the other side of the road you can reach the Grand Palais. Sprawled out neighbouring the Champs-Elysées, the 240m long and 45m high Grand Palais with its Neo-Baroque exterior and Art Nouveau interior was also built for the Universal Expo of 1900. In 2011 the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and the Grand Palais fused and its abbreviated name ever since is Rmn-GP. The events and exhibitions held here annually attract over 2 million visitors from every corner of the globe.
The Grand Palais is the venue of the Biennale des Antiquaires, nowadays considered a French institution. The stalls cover 4,100, the entire exhibition 14,000 m2, the environment and the lay-out was designed by Jacques Grange (French interior designer) this year: “La Biennale 2014 is an imaginary garden leading to exceptional objects.”
The design of the Biennale is constructed on three main roads leading to three pavilions. Trellises and arbores emphasize the perspectives through a graphic play between fountains, groves and lawns. The event had a dedicated fragrance too; the fountain at the front door was filled with scented water designed by the French perfume maker Francis Kurkdjian.
Naturally a true Parisian event would not be complete without a gastronomic experience: the restaurant offered menus prepared by French chefs including Guy Martin from Le Grand Véfour; Michel Rochedy and Stéphane Buron from Le Chabichou; and Gilles Tournadre, from La Couronne.
This year the Biennale welcomed 81 exhibitors, galleries, merchants, and high-end jewellers, all of whom presented their art works, objects and masterpieces.
A stroll among stalls of the high-jewellery Houses
The visitors had the chance to see collections of fine jewelry, both vintage and contemporary, created by 15 jewellers — mostly from France but also from Italy, the United States, Britain and Hong Kong. The Siegelson gallery from New York presented its usual rich selection of Art Deco pieces, including a diamond, enamel and gem-set bracelet made by Boucheron in 1925.
The “Premier Joaillerie de la Place Vendome”, Boucheron had a light and crisp booth, decorated with a delicate botanical installation. Azuma Makoto flower artist created a beautiful decoration around the Maison’s Rêves d’Ailleurs collection. Boucheron’s artistic travel around the world, the magical jewels of which we have showed you earlier this summer, continued at the Biennale.
Bulgari celebrates its 130th anniversary; to mark the occasion they have opened a new store on Rome’s famed Via dei Condotti and released a special collection of jewellery. They have also showcased an exhibition in the Houston Museum of Natural Science. At the Biennale Bulgari presented show-stopping pieces inspired by Greco-Roman classicism, the Italian Renaissance, as well as pieces from the Elizabeth Taylor collection.
Cartier has participated at the Biennale since 1964, and once again this year had one of the largest booths showcasing a collection of 104 pieces. They introduced them according to various themes: Reigning gems, Stones of the world, Design as king and Revealed stones. Besides the classical and iconic Cartier creations, or the clean-cut design, some jewels were inspired by Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania. And of course, Biennales of the past 60 years have seen many Cartier mystery clocks too – this year is no different.
Chaumet presented its new High Jewellery collection celebrating water in its myriad forms. Fifty-three pieces, divided into 12 sets were exhibited in dark blue surroundings. The exceptional pieces seemed to almost levitate, thus emphasising the unique design and various gemstones used in the creations.
Van Cleef & Arpels
In addition to its wonderful fairy tale world we previously immersed in, Van Cleef & Arpels also brought some significant pieces from the Heritage collection, such as a necklace with yellow and blue sapphires, emeralds and diamonds from 1959. One of the Maison’s immediately recognisable setting techniques is the Mystery setting, which was patented in 1933. It consists of setting stones in such a way that no prongs are visible. An exceptionally beautiful example of this is the Pivoine Mystérieuse, with rubies and diamonds.
The loud 60’s and 70’s have had a great influence on the artistry of Piaget, which created 88 pieces of jewellery and 37 of watches to the Biennale in the mood of these remarkable times. The pieces are grouped in two collections, bearing the name “Extremely Colourful” – referring to the colour stones the House has installed on precious metals – and “Extremely Sparkling” – a hint to accessories with a great amount top quality diamonds.
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Photo credits: Piaget, Loupiosity.com.
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