Sunday, April 3, 2011

Le Salon du Dessin and Drawings Week in Paris

I arrived in Paris to participate in drawings week which culminates with the Salon du Dessin where a select group of the best dealers from France and around the world show their best works on paper but this is not the only event of the week. Many other dealers hold exhibitions in their own galleries or ones they “borrowed” for the occasion. Here one can sometimes make a “discovery”. At the salon the discoveries have often already been made and you can buy and enjoy but at some of the “smaller” galleries, many on the left bank, there is much more to think about. It is nice to have certainty and security (if such things exist) but it can be even more fun to enjoy the possibility of discovery.

My first day, Sunday, in Paris I went to visit a friend on the left bank who has a small but choice gallery. I had received the catalog in advance and gone specifically to see two drawings and as so often happens I decided that neither was for me but I bought another, possibly better for the American market because not only has the authorship been blessed by “The Authority”, but the painting that it was done for has been identified. I was lucky, I arrived at the gallery on Sunday morning before a couple who were considering the piece, but had not reserved it, came in during the afternoon.

Monday, there were auction sales to view and then get back to my computer to research some of that data. Though, as I think I have said before, I much prefer to buy privately or from dealers where I know what I will or will not pay and can make more rational choices.

Then in the evening the Louvre’s drawing department opened it’s doors to a special invitation list of serious drawings specialists consisting of dealers, collectors, scholars and curators. One always runs into friends and people you want to see but inevitably there are names that you can just not pull out in time! On the tables in the drawings study the Louvre curators have put out drawings without frames and without labels so the cognoscenti huddle together trying to work out who the artist might be. It reminds me of Daumier’s illustrations of the Connoisseurs.

There is always a theme and this his year it was French drawings that had been in the famed Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774) collection. Former Louvre director and French scholar Pierre Rosenberg has just published his 464 page, volume 1 of the collection as well a facsimile edition of the original 18th century Mariette auction catalog showing many of the lots with small sketches by Gabriel de St. Aubin, certainly more sympathetic than today’s illustrations.

Though the week will continue with a myriad of openings, lectures and exhibitions, the main event, as mentioned, comes on Tuesday evening with the opening of the 20th Anniversary of the Salon du Dessin. The public began to swarm in at 4pm sharp but they did not necessarily buy immediately though some did. Many just enjoy and appreciate the experience of a wonderful group of drawings that they can bask in.

Having said that, when I walked in shortly before 6 pm I already saw a number of red dots on various galleries stands. In some cases for the “most important” work in the booth but more often not. Collectors were not looking for trophies they were looking for what spoke to them and fit into their collections. The flow of people in an out all evening was quite incredible.

Having been to Maastricht where I already saw over 25% of the 39 dealers exhibiting there were many pieces that were not new to me. Yet some dealers brought an entire other set of drawings or at least many that had not been seen in Maastricht.

There was a lovely German Romantic picture that I had been debating in Maastricht but could not make up my mind and sad to say it was no longer available and had remained with a Maastricht collector. Well, at least I need no longer lose any sleep over it.

If I find a few works of art that I not only think are wonderful but that I also believe are attainable, even if it is only in my fantasy, that is what makes a fair for me.

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