An iconic and prestigious event for over sixty years, La Biennale Paris has built up a faithful network of reputed dealers, international galleries and luxury upscale jewellery houses that seduce the public and meet the expectations of the most discerning collectors. Since its inception, La Biennale Paris has been offering amateurs a fabulous and diverse choice of antiques, fine art and jewellery.
A look back at six decades of passion and excellence. From the beginnings with the first ‘Foire des Antiquaires’ (Antiques Fair) to the newly-named ‘La Biennale Paris’ (now an annual event).
The beginnings of the Biennale, the ‘Antiques Fair’
The idea of a ‘French Antiques Fair’ emerged in the ‘50s, in 1956 precisely, on the initiative of the newly elected Chairman of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (National Union of Antique Dealers), Pierre Vandermeersch.
This annual fair, which was held at the Porte de Versailles until 1961, already provided amateurs and art collectors with an event gathering the big names of the profession around the elegance, beauty and prestige of the objects on display.
The first Antiques Biennale at the Grand Palais
In 1962, under the aegis of André Malraux, who opened the doors to the Grand Palais (Malraux had just asked Reynolds Arnould to adapt the setting in order to make it a suitable venue for prestigious temporary exhibitions), the Antiques Fair became the Antiques Biennale.
The greatest antiques dealers, decorators, jewellers and booksellers from France and overseas displayed their wares in a magical setting of pavilions, gardens and fountains. The first Biennale opened its doors under the name ‘Antiques Dealers and Decorators at the Grand Palais’.
La The 2nd Biennale and the Debutantes’ Ball
In 1964, the second Antiques Biennale demonstrated its success with 350,000 visitors, and hosted the Debutantes' Ball. No longer scheduled in June, it now took place in autumn, from 26 September to 18 October 1964, at the Grand Palais.
Numerous well-known figures such as Greta Garbo, the Rothschilds and Jean Seberg contributed to making this second Biennale the social event of the year.
La The 3rd Antiques Biennale
The Antiques Biennale continued to be an important event for the world of the arts, literature and politics and in 1966, welcomed Arletty, Michel Simon, and of course André Malraux, and Jean Lecanuet.
La The 4th Antiques Biennale
The decor of this edition of the Biennale was a colourful Mediterranean city, spread over 8,000 square metres. The publication Art & Curiosité concluded its article on the Antiques Biennale as follows: ‘In short, this Biennale, despite the fears that we had following the events of May, was an indisputable success on all levels, especially in terms of its international renown’.
La The 5th Antiques Biennale
From Mathieu to Von Karajan, from Sheila to Cary Grant, as well as Hubert de Givenchy or Ministers Jacques Baumel and Olivier Guichard, the 5th Antiques Biennale was as appealing as ever.
La The 6th Antiques Biennale
A regular at the Antiques Biennale, Karl Lagerfeld collaborated on this 6th edition, showcasing the work of lacquer artist Jean Dunand for Anne-Sophie Duval’s stand. This edition was also complemented with the first pieces of Art Deco.
The 7th Antiques Biennale
This year, the Grand Palais was closed for restoration work. Therefore, the Antiques Biennale hosted its 76 exhibitors at the Palais des Congrès, Porte Maillot. Amongst this year’s visitors was actor Lino Ventura, a collector of nautical antiques, hoping to find something special.
The 8th and 9th Antiques Biennales
In a setting designed by Jean-Raphaël Milliès-Lacroix and Guy Balhardère, the 8th and the 9th Antiques Biennales brought together over 90 exhibitors for each edition.
The 10th Antiques Biennale
An emotional edition as Pierre Vandermeersch retired from his position as Chairman of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires. He was the first to occupy this role from 1955 to 1981.
The 11th and 12th Antiques Biennales
Over the years, the Antiques Biennale gained greater prestige and recognition on the international scene. More than 100 exhibitors gathered at the Grand Palais for these editions.
The 13th Antiques Biennale
"‘(...) Civilizations, men and their vanities pass, the artworks that you see here come from all the periods that have preceded us, they have survived, preserved in large part thanks to our professions, objects of curiosity for some, of desire for others; they are the witnesses of life, and of the quality of life and culture that we must safeguard.’ Philippe Brame.
The 14th Antiques Biennale
Patrick Jaouanet succeeded Jean-Raphaël Milliès-Lacroix, the architect of the Biennale since its creation.
The 15th Antiques Biennale
For this new edition, draped velum softened the light streaming through the glass roof of the Grand Palais.
The 16th Antiques Biennale
Pier Luigi Pizzi was responsible for the neo-classical decoration implemented by Patrick Jaouanet for the 16th Antiques Biennale, before the Grand Palais closed for a long period of renovation. It wasn’t until 2006 that the Biennale would return to the famous glass nave of the Grand Palais.
The 17th Antiques Biennale
The Carrousel du Louvre hosted the Antiques Biennale for the next six editions. Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Patrick Jaouanet designed the architectural concept for this new setting, located close to two prestigious museums: the Louvre, temple of Art, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts).
The 18th Antiques Biennale
The Antiques Biennale organized its first gala dinner in aid of the Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris – Hôpitaux de France. Over the years, the ‘Antiques Biennale Dinner’ has become an unmissable international event, a gathering attended by famous media personalities and keen collectors.
The 19th Antiques Biennale
The Antiques Biennale once again proved its reputation as an event for arts-loving celebrities, come to visit the stands or attend the traditional gala dinner. Spotted in 1998 were: Gérard Oury and Michèle Morgan, Catherine Deneuve, Pierre Bergé, Kenzo, Charles Aznavour, as well as Jacques Toubon and Agnès Soral.
The 20th Antiques Biennale
The theme behind the 20th Antiques Biennale was ‘Paris, Crossroads of the Continents’, encouraging fruitful exchanges that have led to major artistic creations. Christophe Decarpentrie was the decorator for this year’s edition.
This year, Pierre Rosenberg, former Chairman of the Louvre Museum, said: ‘Coming here is a dual pleasure, as I am both a neighbour and a collector. I personally believe that a good relationship between the art market and museums is essential to the life of museums, and I am more than happy to see Paris organizing such a beautiful exhibition. I hope that it will encourage many to become part of this world in the future’.
The 21st Antiques Biennale
Welcoming some twenty leading European and American galleries, the Biennale reinforced its international dimension.
Jacques Chatelet, responsible for the lighting of many theatrical events, operas and dance shows, was entrusted by the Biennale: he was appointed ‘lighting designer’ with the remit of creating a decor that would provide this edition with an original, colourful atmosphere.
The 22nd Antiques Biennale
Following tradition, the Biennale called upon the services of a great decorator. For this edition, François-Joseph Graf created the setting that would host the many exhibitors.
Moreover, nine highly-reputed French chefs put together a different menu every day for visitors, in partnership with Bottin Gourmand and Potel & Chabot.
The 23rd Antiques Biennale
For its 23rd edition, the Antiques Biennale returned to its pavilions under the glass dome of the Grand Palais, with an exhibition area spread over 4,000 square metres. It brought together 111 exhibitors, 45 of them from outside France, a quarter of them newcomers, with 15 specialty areas represented and, all in all, over 7,000 objects on display, spanning three millennia.
The 24th Antiques Biennale
A key event in the art market calendar, the Biennale continued to offer a wide range of specialties presented by internationally renowned professionals in the fields of antiques, fine arts and jewellery.
The 25th Antiques Biennale
For almost half a century, the Antiques Biennale has been the rendez-vous for art lovers from around the world, who flock here to find some of the most beautiful pieces of antiques, fine arts and jewellery.
The Biennale’s success is built around two cornerstones: the excellence of the works of art on display and the expertise of the antiques dealers. Furthermore, the Biennale takes place in the most beautiful city in the world, and heart of the art market.
The 26th Antiques Biennale
Karl Lagerfeld was the set designer of the 26th Antiques Biennale.
The Syndicat National des Antiquaires asked the designer to take charge of the setting, decor and visuals. Karl Lagerfeld, an artist with many talents, who is also a great collector and lover of rare and beautiful art objects, accepted the challenge. ‘I like antiques dealers and everything the Biennale represents, and I love the Grand Palais, which is my favourite place in Paris. I have so many memories of Chanel runway shows here with oversized decor. (…) For me, the Grand Palais is the very heart of Paris, the very essence of Paris and its universality. I wanted to emphasize the immensity and splendour of the glass roof, treating it like a sky protecting the exceptional objects presented by the antiques dealers, art galleries and jewellers’, states Karl Lagerfeld.
The 27th Antiques Biennale
Jacques Grange designed the setting for the 27th Biennale, inspired by the gardens of Versailles and Trianon.
The 28th Antiques Biennale
In this Biennale, 125 exhibitors took part against a backdrop created by set designer Nathalie Crinière. Three prestigious institutions were the guests of honour: the Musée de l’Ermitage, displaying some of the flagships of its collections; the Mobilier National (the French national furniture collection), and the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, showcasing their extraordinary know-how and craftsmanship.
From this edition onwards, the selection of exhibitors would become the responsibility of the Biennale Commission open to qualified experts, outside of the SNA.
La Biennale Paris
The Antiques Biennale has become an annual event and is now called La Paris Biennale.
For this edition, the Biennale offered the public a unique opportunity to discover the exceptional heritage of the Barbier-Mueller family and their remarkably varied collections. This exhibition, unprecedented and prestigious, celebrated the passion of collector Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller, and an art collection inherited across three generations, brought together here for the first time.