The Verdant Gardens of La Biennale Des Antiquaires

“Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart.”  -Russell Page

“Rich and rare were the gems she wore, And a bright gold ring on her hand she bore.” -Thomas Moore

A bright, hot September afternoon set the scene as Cole and I walked into the glass lidded Grande Palais for the 2014 Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris. 

The intensity of light bleached the colors of topiary-lined aisles, trellised walls, and Versailles-like garden scene designed by Jacques Grange - a stunningly brilliant interior designer who created this enormous greenery filled garden within the interior of the massive Palais. 

The vines of foliage, both real and artful, blended pleasantly with the green metal structure supporting the glass above. The last time I attended the Biennale, Karl Lagerfeld had channeled Baron Haussmann by creating an illusion of the grand boulevards of Paris in the same building. This year Grange created a version of the great parterre gardens of Versailles. All this as a means of hosting even more elaborate "shops" by the likes of Cartier, Dior, Graff, and numerous other luxury brands. These exhibit galleries were as artful as though they were situated on Avenue Faubourg or Rue Madeleine. No expense was spared in creating a stunning interior setting for even more stunning items.

Here, many legendary art, antique, and jewelry dealers had booths that were complete architectural wonders within themselves.

At the end of a central corridor was a temporary restaurant, Ephemeral: Le Restaurant Gastronomique de la Biennale des Antiquaires, which I learned later was led by a different famous executive chef each night. Each day one restaurant appeared, another disappeared. The essence of the ephemeral.

As I had just visited Chanel's apartment I was more attentive to elements from the same milieu...

At the Chanel exhibit at the Biennale guards were everywhere. A crowd of elegant, serious looking shoppers made us stand out a little suspiciously. We were hot (when will Paris learn the concept of climatized air? I want my AC!), we were tired, and we didn't have the odd million or so Euros on us to pick up a little bauble. Evidently we didn't look the part of potentates ready to splurge on countless sparkly things. No couture-clad sales woman asked if they could assist us. We didn't mind, after all, we are only luxury voyeurs.

After the exhaustion of window shopping for diamond tiaras and the like, we stopped to regroup and cool off at a little café, specifically avoiding the little champagne kiosks sprinkled around the exhibit hall in an effort to save ourselves for cocktails later in some cool, dark bistro. As we picked up a simple snack I noticed, even the packaging was trés chic (of course). Oh those French.

Restored, we meandered through more little "shops" many finished out with original 18th century boiserie, ancient fruitwood flooring, or totally angular and contemporary walls, ceilings, or other elegant details most people don't lavish on their homes much less a week long antique show.

My favorite sculpture was an early Anish Kapoor stone disc - so predictive of his fantastic Sky Mirror (see Cowboys Stadium... er, a, make that AT&T Stadium). 

A Louise Bourgeois giant spider would, of course, look quite at home among Cole's insect collection although we just might have to get a separate house to display this gigantic creature. It was easily 10 feet long from tip to tip.

And of course, I can't forget the Peter Marino 1,000 lb. bronze end tables... ok, I exaggerate... they were actually small chests and probably not more than 950 lbs. At around 200,000 euros each how much per pound does that work out to? Cole didn't seem to hear me when I said I wanted one.

There were some phenomenal old master paintings but the crowds were bigger in the contemporary art booths. Evidently Francis Bacon trumps Lucas Cranach the Younger. 

Wendell Castle was showing in two different places - he is certainly ascending. 

This makes me really happy since I talked some favorite clients into getting one of his tables for their Sonoma house. 

Maybe next they need a bench from the show, even if it is one of a kind and a bit pricy. Art furniture is the way to go!!

The jewels - well, I won't say much. I'll just list the dealers and post a few pictures, you'll get the idea. Nice stuff.

from Piaget...

from Dior...

from Boucheron...

and from Chanel...

and this little gem, also from Chanel... inspired by a precious object we had just actually held in Mme. Chanel's apartment. Perhaps Mademoiselle felt a little trapped in her bejeweled world.

Departing Jacques Grange's vision of Versailles, Cole and I walked back out into the real Paris day, cooler by many degrees outside than back in the airless Grande Palais. The contrast struck me - inside was an artificial world filled with opulence and splendor, but outside was the breeze, the bustle of traffic, and the scent of our real life, or at least Paris' version.

À bientôt, Sherry

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