At the Biennale des Antiquaires 2014 welcome to the eclectic side


The first thought that comes to your mind when you exit the outstanding and extremely packed Biennale des Antiquaires‘ opening at the Grand Palais is that there must be a sort of new aristocracy that is indeed getting back what democracy has taken from them two hundred years ago. Prices are becoming extraordinary high, the idea of “the masterpiece” is circulating furiously, and a crowd of very wealthy buyers is willing to spend huge amount of money to get hold of the ultimate symbol of their status. But this is the game, and now art people seem to love it more than ever.


The second thought is that the trend we have spotted few months ago at the Tefaf is becoming stronger and stronger. Even the most specialized galleries are crossing the epochs while setting parallels that only five years ago would have been considered at least scarcely convenient, or purely intellectual games. On the contrary, today, every image, or medium, or message from the past tends to be conceptualized, as if this approach to the artwork could embody the magic link to put comfortably side by side a canvas by A.R. Penck with pieces of furniture from the XVIII century, or religious Italian paintings from the XVII with Lucio Fontana’s sensual holes. In this frame, that is conceptual and strongly symbolic at the same time, and that probably could be considered as a refreshing side effect of a new phase of globalization, spotting similarities between epochs, places or artists seems to have become a more interesting game than noticing the differences between them.


If you start from this point of view, it becomes indeed a engaging stimulus that of having a minimalist Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Alvise Vivarini hanging on an elegant grey wall between two intensively orange small paintings by Gerhard Richter. The relation between the sanctity of the woman and the purity, or demonic, meaning of fire comes as easy as the pleasant scent given forth by the fountain at the main door. As the idea of placing a small Saint Dominic attributed to Maso di Banco on the top of a raw canvas, addressing to the presence of Alberto Burri which unfortunately is not there. These two episodes can be spotted at Moretti Fine Art gallery, while not far from it, at De Jonckheere’s, a beautiful piece from Lucio Fontana’s New York period (3.5m €)  provides a perfectly cold, metallic and monumental introduction to the warm, small and full of character Flemish painting which the gallery is specialized on.


Sometimes the discourse is about objects in relation between them, other times it is the setting that provides the access to the conceptual side. At Galerie Chenel, the marbles are on display like models on the catwalk, and are reflected by a background mirror that could have been personally suggested by the fair’s designer, Jaques Grange. The Roman head of Jupiter from the II cent. BC, probably restored by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in the XVIII cent., has been used by the surrealist photographer Angus McBean for a self-portrait inspired to Giorgio de Chirico. And Mr. Grange could have also suggested to put the Penck on top of the big mirror at the bottom of the Galerie Léage‘s booth. The set of furniture designed by the iconic architect Peter Marino especially for this occasion makes the Dominique Lévy gallery looks like a real fetish apartment, whose main characteristic is a relation between Gunther Uecker/Enrico Castellani based on their opposite use of nails, inside and outside the canvas.


Curiously no eastern sculpture, or any gallery specialized in this kind of art is following this trend, but the beautiful sculptures at Galerie Jaques Barrere are probably waiting for an Anish Kapoor’ smooth marble or purple mirror, while the Egyptian colossal group at Ancient Art could be successfully associated to certain intricate sculptures by Henry Moore or Tony Cragg. What about the expressive Holy Mother with the Baby by Juan Tejerina at Ana Chiclana? Does it deserve a Neue Sachlichkeit’s painting beside her? It certainly does, but no paintings by Dix or Grosz are to be seen around. Probably their art wouldn’t be perceived as a good omen by the new aristocrats.

September 12, 2014