April 13, 2008

"La Semaine du Dessin" in Paris

Enthusiasts of original drawings from Old Master to Contemporary have flocked to Paris this week to enjoy the city's annual celebration of this art form. With 2 major art fairs, several museum exhibitions and galleries featuring special drawings shows, all of Paris seems caught up in the spirit of pencil (or ink) on paper.

The centerpiece of the week is the "Salon du Dessin", now held for the 5th year in the magnificent Palais de la Bourse, the former stock exchange that has been adapted to function as a prime location for gatherings such as art fairs, fashion shows and small conferences. 36 exhibitors from Europe and the U.S. have the coveted opportunity to display at this prestigious annual event where passionate collectors and museum directors vie to acquire a new jewel for their individual collecting crowns.

I spent 3 happy hours exploring the fair on the opening afternoon, sipping champagne and talking with the dealers who were very gracious in answering questions. It is difficult to choose favorites as the quality of the material was so high, but I would have to say that the stand of Ronny Van De Velde, a first time exhibitor from Antwerp, Belgium, was outstanding. His presentation of 40 framed original drawings by J.J. Grandville (1803-1847) for his masterpiece "Un Autre Monde" was absolutely fabulous. They were offered as a group and quickly marked SOLD. I also loved the watercolor on vellum by Margaret Macdonald Macintosh, the wife of Arts & Crafts architect extrodinaire, Charles Rennie Macintosh. Done in the Pre-Raphealite style, "Le Jardin Mysterieuse [The Mysterious Garden]", 1911, featured an ethereal woman in a blue gown inspired by Maeterlink's play "L'Oiseau bleu [The Blue Bird]". It is offered at 325,000 Euro on the stand of The Fine Art Society, London, and is absolutely beautiful.

Also on the Pre-Raphealite theme was the watercolor and pencil drawing of "L'Annonciation", 1855, by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. It was a perfect example of the symbolism, the mystery and the sheer beauty of the movement, on the stand of Agnew's, London, for 350,000 Euro. On a more modern note, the oil on cardboard painting of a polar bear, by noted 20th Century French animal artist Paul Jouve, was a charmer, and I was not surprised when the staff on the stand of Galerie Philippe Heim, Paris, told me it was sold on the first day.

A quick trip to the "Salon du Dessin Contemporain [Contemporary Drawings Fair]" at an exhibition space near the Gare Saint Lazare, was fun to see, but it is hard to appreciate any depth or passion in the work after being immersed in the world of true masters at the other fair. However, I did discover a gifted young artist named Glen Baxter whom I think we'll be seeing some more of in the future.

Only in Paris could an entire city celebrate a week dedicated to the art of drawing and it was a pleasure to participate. I can't wait till next year!

No comments: