PARIS — Chaumet and Boucheron have pulled out of the Biennale des Antiquaires, joining an exodus of jewelry brands from the event that was formerly considered the industry’s premier showcase, WWD has learned.
They were the last of the jewelry brands located on Place Vendôme in Paris to withdraw from the fair, which is in the midst of a major shakeup as it switches to an annual rhythm, with the new organizers assigning jewelry a less important place.
The decision to pull out marked an about-face for Boucheron, which said in January it would participate in the event despite the departure of industry behemoth Cartier.
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, chief executive officer of Boucheron, had said then she agreed with the more “purist” vision of the new Biennale team, which had initially stipulated that only jewelers more than a century old should be allowed on the main floor of the Grand Palais, where the event is set to take place from Sept. 10 to 18.
“I think it creates a healthy rivalry around the Biennale. It sets the record straight about who are the historic jewelers that have a heritage,” Poulit-Duquesne said at the time.
Boucheron did not specify the reasons for its change of heart, but the Place Vendôme houses — which are members of the Comité Vendôme association — tend to coordinate their actions. Chaumet declined further comment.
Of the 14 jewelry brands present at the fair in 2014, the last time the event took place, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Alexandre Reza, Giampiero Bodino and Wallace Chan have also decided not to attend this year, spokespeople for those brands said.
Organizers of the Biennale are scheduled to reveal the list of participants on Wednesday. Siegelson is among the brands that will be returning, owner Lee Siegelson told WWD. Among the newcomers this year will be Cindy Chao, a spokesman for the Taiwanese designer confirmed.
With many of the historic houses now absent, it remains to be seen how many jewelers will take part and where their stands will be located. Some have been offered emplacements in the Salon d’honneur of the Grand Palais, which has a separate entrance and frequently hosts exhibitions.
“The house has decided not to participate in the next Biennale des Antiquaires because of new technical measures taken by the organizers of this event,” the house said. “In particular, the drastic reduction in the maximum surface of the stand was considered incompatible with Cartier’s requirements and the care it takes in presenting a large number of high jewelry pieces and welcoming our customers.”
Piaget declined to comment, although observers said its participation is looking uncertain since it also belongs to Compagnie Financière Richemont, like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Giampiero Bodino.
Officials at Graff Diamonds and David Morris did not respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Harry Winston, which has been mulling whether to join the event, also did not return a request for comment.
Although none of the jewelers concerned were willing to comment on the record, those located on Place Vendôme — considered the epicenter of high jewelry — are mulling whether to band together to stage a separate event in future years, according to a well-placed source.
In the meantime, jewelry brands could expand the size of the presentations they traditionally stage in July to provide press and clients with an advance glimpse of their Biennale collections. Due to the lengthy development times for these pieces, the leading houses will all have extensive lines to show.
In a further sign of turmoil, the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, which runs the Biennale, said it was revising the contract it signed last year with Reed Expositions, the French subsidiary of Reed Exhibitions, to manage the event. The SNA will take back control of relations with exhibitors, institutions and professionals, the two companies said in a joint statement.
Reed, which also organizes the Fiac art fair and Paris Photo, will retain control over negotiations with the Réunion des musées nationaux — Grand Palais, the venue for the fair. It will also develop private events for collectors.
“This new organization will reinforce the dynamic launched eight months ago, guaranteeing the Biennale will pursue its ambitions: To renew its focus on the quality of French and international antiques dealers,” they said.
The set design has been awarded to Nathalie Crinière, who together with Jacques Grange is spearheading the transformation of the Pierre Bergé—Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris into a permanent museum dedicated to the late couturier. Grange designed the 2014 edition of the Biennale.
Some 110 exhibitors have confirmed their attendance at the fair, compared to a total of 88 in 2014, including jewelers, the organizers added.
The Biennale has been through a series of upheavals since Christian Deydier was ousted as president of the SNA in July 2014. His successor, Dominique Chevalier, recruited former Louvre Museum director Henri Loyrette as president of the Biennale and head of an independent commission charged with selecting participants.
Among the members of the commission is Maryvonne Pinault, the wife of billionaire François Pinault, principal shareholder and honorary chairman of Kering, which owns jewelry brands including Boucheron, Pomellato and Qeelin.
The Biennale is facing growing competition from other European events, including the TEFAF art and antiques fair in Maastricht in the Netherlands, BRAFA in Brussels and Frieze Masters in London.