A wind of change sweeps the Biennale Paris 2017

The Biennale Paris, the name is enough to evoke all the finest the world has to offer in the field of decorative arts and jewellery. Founded in 1959 by André Malraux to promote the French arts, it has since been the place where the great collectors and the great houses of art, antique furniture and jewellery meet. Despite the absence, this year, of the great jewellery houses such as Cartier or Van Cleefs and Arpels, the Biennale has not lost its prestige, on the contrary the absence of such names – one might say too well known – gives a more intimate dimension to the event. Under the glass roof of the Grand Palais, antiques cohabit with modern art with a sense of harmony, however it is rare to see a gallery or an antique dealer extending its gaze to both in a significant way. This choice is understandable since each house wants to be the reference of choice in the style that it represents and that each house draws its essence from a distinct epoch. The jewellers, on the contrary, seem to take a certain pleasure in mixing the styles and epochs in their displays. In their eyes a jewel remains a jewel and its beauty remains undeniable.


The house Véronique Bamps thus lead us to discover a necklace which at first, appears as a work created this year by one of the great houses who wants to follow the fashion of stones with unusual colours. However, the jewel does not date from this year, nor from the last century, the necklace was actually worn as early as the 19th century. Thus, the seemingly unique jewel, is easily paired in the display with a pair of earrings from the Maison Jar, founded in 1978. Yet, classic jewellery does not lose its place despite the wind of renewal that is carrying the Biennale forwards. To this idea one needs but to admire one of the tiaras on show from Alain Pautot to understand that the jewels are timeless and made to be passed down.



The Biennale celebrating the antiques dealers, it would be impossible not to praise them, at least to not acclaim their collections. Whether their style is pop or Louis XVI each collection emphasizes excellence in its domain. Thus the Galerie de la Presidence, which specializes in the masters of the 20th century, exhibits in a sober setting the works of Raoul Dufy (see photo), Alexander Calder, Paul Signac and many other equally prestigious artists.


While some choose sobriety in their decor, putting a preference on the works as such, others have decided to create real interiors to contextualize their collections. The Gismondi gallery is a superb example with these lacquered panels which creates a jewellery box setting to house and highlight its collection of 17th and 18th century art and furniture. However, it must not be supposed that only the galleries which promote more modern art adopt a simple setting for their intriguing works. The Galerie Mendes, a dealer of antique paintings and drawings, shows its works in quasi-darkness which individualises them and gives them the modern appearance in vogue amongst collectors. Finally, the most famous houses such as G. Sarti and the Perrin gallery seem to have evolved with the desire to please less traditional collectors. Such an evolution is felt in their way of exhibiting their works. A more contemporary approach with a certain simplicity that better suits contemporary decorative tastes. In this way, we can feel the emphasis on the living aspect of their collections, which would have their rightful place in prestigious museums as well as in our apartments. Other galleries have chosen to follow the fashion for cabinets of curiosities, often seen in high end boutiques, seeking to astonish visitors.

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To conclude, the Biennale Paris 2017 seems to have definitely opened a new chapter in its incredible history. By attempting to modernize the event, all while retaining the essence of the event, the organizers found themselves faced with a risky challenge at which they brilliantly succeeded. Apart from the numerous exhibitors who followed this wave, the Biennale hosted an exhibition of the Barbier-Mueller collections. This collection alone reflects the new face of the Biennale since it contains works by artists such as Élisabeth Louise Vigée Lebrun and Jeff Koons. It also reflects the new Biennale by its international aspect, an trait that is reflected in the variety of exhibitors. Thus about a third of the collections presented are those of foreign galleries. It is on this note of international renewal that the Biennale ends to return next year, since it is now an annual spectacle.

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