The  Biennale des Antiquaires of Paris is perhaps the most renowned event of its kind, and this year, the 26th edition is the conclusion of an international, 13-city tour of an assembly of the most eminent dealers of fine arts, archaeological treasures, jewels, furniture, and other such luxurious and collectible items. What better venue than the nave of the Grand Palais?

On Thursday of last week, Untapped Paris returned to this iconic space to catch the press preview of this prestigious event. Obviously first-timers to the event, photographer  Lawrence  Oluyede and I cleared the stringent security checks in our high top sneakers and jeans — and followed the train of Louis Vuitton and Chanel pumps and handbags inside.

The event has been directed by president of the  Syndicat National  des  Antiquiares,  Christian Deydier, whom has combined powers with Karl Lagerfeld (as event scenographer) to curate an event which sees the likes of Bulgari, Chaumet, Dior and Chanel sitting side by side in a series of shopping promenades, inspired by the Beaux-Arts arcades of Paris, and organised around a central axes set directly underneath the great dome of the Palais nave.

Lagerfeld has lined the promenades with a rather sterile series of pale grey ‘shells’ which actually provides the perfect subdued backdrop for exhibitors to emblazon iconic branding, install extravagant interiors, and embellish with highly sought after luxury jewels and treasures from faraway lands and civilisations — certainly a world away from the high street buys and vide-grenier specials that feature in my wardrobe & apartment!

As we’ve noted previously, the Grand Palais’ nave is a majestic space, and with 150 exhibitors (a 74% increase on 2010’s 86 exhibitors) to visit, guests needing to stave off hunger pangs are provided for by menus by high-calibre chefs such as Michel Roth from Le Ritz of Paris — which are of course complimented by fine wines and champagne.

Standing out among dealers of  20th century art, furniture, and objets d’art is Galerie Marcilhac based here in Paris. In particular a beautiful polished zinc ‘Directorial Desk’ designed by French architect Michel Dufet — one of only two ever fabricated, and exemplary piece of art deco furniture. The piece was commissioned in 1928 by the Royal Asturian Mines Company of Spain, which of course produced zinc. As an interesting aside, Dufet designed Paris’ Musée Bourdelle.

The seriously impressive display of Paris’ Galerie Jean-Christophe Charbonnier, presented beautifully preserved masks and pieces of armour from Kyoto — the gallery specialises in Japanese art, armoury and weaponry. Having seen pieces such as these, worthy of display in the Louvre, as well as the jewels of Cartier, Boucheron and Bulgari, etc, Lawrence and I began to appreciate the event’s ultra suped-up security checks.

In Tribal Arts, Belgian dealer in objects from Oceania, Africa and Indonesia: Bernard de Grunne advised that his sector of antiquities is rather undervalued, as his clients don’t so much view their acquisitions as ‘investment pieces’ that are speculated upon, but rather objects of interest that are treasured and retained long term.

OK, so the objects on offer may be a little out of budget for Lawrence and I — but if antiquities and fine arts are your thing, and you can find the cash for the 30 euro entrance fee, the concentration of various market specialists & dealers provides a terrific source of expert knowledge.

If you missed your chance to see the Biennale this year, we recommend stashing your cash now and blocking out your calendar for the 2014 Biennale.

Check out the rest of Lawrence’s fantastic shots from the event below:


Avenue Winston-Churchill,
75008 Paris  [Map]
Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau or Franklin D Roosevelt  

Get in touch with the author @twarbrick.