Lorenz Baumer beetle brooch

PARIS — La Biennale Paris still hopes to bring Place Vendôme’s historic houses back to the fair, even if the number of their participants this year has dwindled from a handful last year down to only one, Lorenz Bäumer.

The decades-old antiques and jewelry fair held under the glass and steel dome of the Grand Palais runs early in the season this year, from Sept. 8 to 16, with organizers citing the busy back-to-school period as one of the reasons for fewer show participants.

“I believe that high jewelry is historically part of La Biennale and must be at La Biennale. It so happens that for several reasons these past few years we haven’t been able to bring them together, but we’ve started working with them and the talks are perfectly amiable,” said Mathias Ary Jan, the president of France’s Syndicat National des Antiquaires, organizer of the event.

Cartier led the exodus of the top 14 jewelry houses at the fair in 2016. Disagreements between jewelers and fair organizers had centered around the importance jewelry had gained at the event over the years, whether they could show jewels less than a century old, and the cost and placement of jewelry house stands.

Last year’s edition counted a handful of labels, including Chinese designer Anna Hu, who presented her recent collection at the Ritz in July; Glenn Spiro from London, who showed at TEFAF for the first time this year, and Indian jeweller Nirav Modi, whose label collapsed after the designer and businessman became embroiled in a banking scandal in his country. Modi remains a fugitive.

Ary Jan told WWD he would like to see the historic jewelers of the Place Vendôme grouped in a dedicated space at the fair in the future.

“I don’t want to mix the high jewelry with the [antiques] galleries. I think it was the most efficient when they had their own space, that’s the most suitable format, without a doubt…to create a little Place Vendôme, I’d say, is the route I’m working on,” he said.

“We continue to work to perhaps convince a few as soon as next year,” he added hopefully, while observing a shift in the industry from grouping together for splashy events, around a decade ago, to striking out individually, with exhibits cropping up from individual brands in different parts of the world.

In the meantime, Lorenz Bäumer is gamely keeping the spot warm, if ever his larger, Place Vendôme neighbors return.

“I like to be alone and make my own decisions and not do things like everybody else, so I thought it would be nice to come,” said Bäumer, as he welcomed visitors to his stand. A taupe and mauve affaire, the space is anchored with a coffee table he designed from an enormous amethyst geode, a hollow, crystal-lined rock.

Lorenz Baumer’s tourmaline earrings.  Courtesy

“It’s a good time of the year—we’re back in Paris, we’re back from vacation—everyone is in a good mood,” he added as Thomas Dartigues, the artist known as Decktwo, worked on an elaborate line drawing of the Place Vendôme that covered a wall.

The designer brought his intricate ‘Scarabée d’Eté’ brooch, with over 500 stones including a fire opal, a yellow beryl and blue tourmaline, and wings that snap open to diffuse a scent. Other highlights of his display were whimsical pairs of parrots, perched on hoops, from the “Inseparable” line; a bold, spikey aquamarine and rock crystal ‘Glacier’ necklace, and colorful tanzanite and titanium earrings that play with movement.

Lorenz Baumer’s aquamarine necklace.  Courtesy

Facing competition from events like the fine art fair TEFAF in Maastricht, the Netherlands, or Masterpiece in London, organizers of La Biennale, which is now held annually, sought to freshen the image of this year’s edition—the thirtieth.

Taking part in the European Heritage Days for the first time, the show will open its doors to the public from 6 p.m. to midnight on Sept. 15. A tent-like pop-up installation set up by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, artistic director for this year’s event, sits in the center of the towering stands, sprinkled with Napoleon relics belonging to collector Pierre-Jean Chalençon.

Officials expect to draw over 40,000 visitors this year, up from nearly 33,000 last year. The fair recently restructured its vetting process following a scandal involving the alleged sale of fake 18th-century chairs two years ago.

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