An early 19th-century pedestal table from Galerie Neuse, designed by Heinrich Gambs (1765-1831) and presented to Queen Luise of Prussia by Tsar Alexander I, is among the eye-catching items included in an innovative online sale organised by Christie’s and La Biennale Paris.
Traditionally a highlight of the Paris Rentrée, the Biennale brings together art and antique dealers, design galleries, jewellers and collectors under the vaulted glass roof of the Grand Palais.
With the 32nd edition postponed until September 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the organisers have teamed up with Christie’s to take the event online — with galleries consigning select items to a sale that will run from 24 September to 8 October.
The 42 art galleries taking part are all world-renowned specialists in their field, while the works span 4,000 years of history. ‘There are more than 90 lots,’ says Biennale president Georges de Jonckheere, ‘and as an Old Master dealer myself, I am very pleased to see this discipline well represented in the sale.’
‘Everything fuses in a way that suggests the interior of a collector who has brought together the best of art and history’
Other areas of interest include Chinese ceramics, Antiquities, Indian, African and Oceanic works of art, and Impressionist and Modern Art paintings. ‘At first glance these works may not seem connected,’ says De Jonckheere, ‘but everything fuses in a way that suggests the interior of an informed collector who has brought together the best of art and history.’
Launched in 1956, the Biennale was conceived by Pierre Vandermeersch, the former chairman of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, to promote the preeminent dealers of art and antiques in France. By the early 1960s it was attracting more than 350,000 visitors, including members of the Rothschild family and actors Greta Garbo, Cary Grant and Jean Seberg.
Today, the event features temporary exhibitions and sets by celebrated designers such as Nathalie Crinière and the late Karl Lagerfeld — and one of the highlights of this year’s online sale is a dining table and chair set by Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), one of Lagerfeld’s favourite furniture designers.
Other highlights include a painting, offered by Perrotin, by the lyrical abstractionist Hans Hartung (1904-1989) — which De Jonckheere describes as possessing ‘all the magic and depth the painter is known for’ — as well as a mysterious sarcophagus mask in ancient Egyptian wood from the Ariadne Galleries.
Proceeds from the sale will go to support the charity Mission Stéphane Bern, which aims, like the Biennale dealers themselves, to safeguard French heritage.
Looking ahead, De Jonckheere is excited about next September’s event in the Grand Palais Ephémère, a temporary structure by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte that will stand in for the permanent building until 2024 while it undergoes major renovations. (Before now, Wilmotte was best known for the interiors of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha and the Mandarin Oriental in Paris.)
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The Biennale president is, however, taking one decision at a time. ‘It is difficult to predict anything, and our mission is to support the needs of our dealers and our collectors in the best possible way.’
Bidding for this year’s online edition of La Biennale Paris runs from 24 September until 8 October.