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September 05, 2012

The Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris

By Rory Tolan | Art

The Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris
Drawn by Karl Lagerfeld, 2012 / Courtesy of the Syndicat National Des Antiquaires

The exit of every art museum is a treasure trove of trash, where the connoisseur can take away Taschen hardbacks, plastic replicas and other cheap tchotchkes that will be fodder less for his memory than for the dust on his coffee table. But from September 14 to 23, the Grand Palais in Paris will host an entirely different sort of museum, whose $50 billion worth of art is stickered with price tags. The Biennale des Antiquaires, now celebrating its 26th biennial installment and its 50th anniversary, recalls Portobello Road less than it does the pleasure dome of Kubla Khan. It is a place where the curators of the Louvre and the Tate can—and do—max out expense accounts within minutes.

On display are some 8,000 paintings, sculptures, jewels, suits of armor, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts and other riches spanning several millennia and six continents. Warhol’s Liz #1 is for the taking, as is Cézanne’s Tasse, verre et fruits, II. So is an ornate bureau from André-Charles Boulle, legendary cabinetmaker to King Louis XIV, as well as a Dumas manuscript from the private collection of Czar Nicholas I. (It would not be surprising if the Golden Fleece was also up for grabs.)

With more than 120 exhibitors, this is the largest Biennale to date, not least because the Grand Palais has opened its long-forgotten wing, the Salon d’Honneur, for the first time since 1940. Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel, has dressed the scene, transforming the Grand Palais into a Belle Epoque Champs- Elysées, with 19th-century arcades, reproductions of the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde and even an antique hot-air balloon floating beneath the building’s great glass dome. (He also designed the official poster, pictured above.) All that glitters may not be gold, but one can probably find it under this roof. Keep your shades on. 1 Avenue Géneral Eisenhower; sna-france.com.

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