Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Every other year Paris hosts an enormous art and antiques show called the Biennale des Antiquaires. We try to go because it's fascinating to see all these incredibly rare and expensive things that are actually for sale and are actually sold, to real people, for real money. And by money I mean amounts that I can't get my head around people having available for discretionary spending, in this or any other economy.
I don't think there was anything there priced less than $100,000 and most prices were substantially higher than that. Not that there were any price tags. No, one has to ask. And, as the old saying goes, if you have to ask, you can't afford it. I bit the bullet and asked about a medium-sized painting by Pierre Soulages, a French painter who had a major retrospective here last year. I'd never heard of him before that. The price was 640,000 euros. At my gulp, the vendor offered me a copy of the catalogue. "It has a nice picture of the painting in it," she said kindly.
Anyway, it was fun looking, and watching the people who were clearly doing more than that. You could tell how likely they were to be customers by the amount of fawning being done over them. In the Cartier jewelry pavilion we got a glimpse of a tray of champagne and little sandwiches whipping by, on their way to the couple being ushered into the private room at the side. It's sort of like visiting another planet.
The Biennale was held at the Grand Palais this year and the massive iron and glass structure was a perfect setting. As we left, we glanced over at the Petit Palais across the street and saw the larger structure reflected in its windows, along with some trees and clouds. Quite as beautiful as many of the treasures inside.