Many of the major fashion brands, given a prominent, designated space at previous fairs, will be absent with only a handful of modern jewellery exhibitors scattered through a new-look event.
A total of 14 Haute-Joaillerie or High Fashion exhibitors took part in the last Biennale in 2014: Alexandre Reza; Boucheron; Bulgari; Cartier; Chanel; Chaumet; David Morris; Dior; Giampiero Bodino; Graff; Piaget; Siegelson; Van Cleef & Arpels and Wallace Chan. None of them will take part this September.
Cartier, associated with the Biennale since 1964, announced their withdrawal from the fair back in February. Other big brands have slowly followed suit in recent months.
A Cartier spokesperson said at the time that their decision was because of a lack of permitted space. “We respect the path taken by the new steering committee who hope to make the Biennale more attractive by increasing the number of dealers. The problem we face is that space is now limited at a maximum of 140 square metres per stand, roughly half of the average in previous years. This drastic reduction is a problem.”
Previously the layout of the fair in the Grand Palais made a clear division between the Haute-Joaillerie jewellery and other exhibitors. Cartier had one of the largest stands in 2014.
Only four contemporary jewellers will be represented at the 28th Biennale. They were listed by Dominique Chevalier, president of organisers the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, who told ATG: “I cannot explain why the previous Haute-Joaillerie exhibitors are not returning this year, but I do know how enthusiastic Boghossian Jewels, Cindy Chao, De Grisogono and Nirav Modi are to be part of this Biennale.”
With a move away from modern jewellery (more of the 117 exhibitors will bring old pieces), the emphasis at the fair is on art and antiques, plus a trio of loan exhibitions from Le Mobilier National in Paris, the Swiss Fondation de la Haute Horologie and the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
“We don’t create ‘sectors’ any more – excellence is everywhere in the Biennale, that’s our vision and that’s why Salon d’Honneur will mix exhibitions of public collections and exhibitors,” added Chevalier.
It is an accusation commonly levelled at many of the world’s leading art and antiques fairs – including those in London – that modern jewellery assumes too much emphasis at events celebrating historical design and craftsmanship.
International brands, best positioned to afford the costs of a prominent stand, bring vital revenue and kudos, but do they distract from other exhibits that must pass muster for authenticity, date and condition? Certainly, the Paris Biennale, traditionally a showcase for Haute-Joaillerie, promises to look markedly different with the absence of so many luxury brand names for its 2016 showing.