While the New York art world is winding down to a semi-comatose state, things are heating up in Europe and further points East, with at least three events bound to tempt decorative arts fans.
A biennale dedicated to the most fragile of arts has just opened in Albisola, just 26 kilometers west of Genoa, where the rampage of rioters is still evident. The focus is ceramics and the event, planned long before tens of thousands of protestors desecrated the latest global summit, is titled rather wryly, The Happy Face of Globalization: Biennial of Ceramics in Contemporary Art.
But then the setting could not be more felicitous. This venerable town of Albisola boasts a ceramics manufacture dating back centuries. The show is being hosted by the Museo Civico d'Arte Contemporanea and the Museo della Ceramica Manlio Trucco, and is on view till Aug. 31, 2001.
Over the past year, 25 potters have descended on the town to work with local craftsmen and their ceramics are front and center at the first edition of this biennale. The potters hail from China, Japan, Austria, Serbia, Kosovo, Denmark, Switzerland, England, Italy, Ghana and Spain.
In addition to efforts by the likes of Ana Laura Alaez, Nicola Costantino, Elke Krystufek and Jane Simpson, examples of the 20th-century avant-garde tradition are on view, including works by Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni and Wifredo Lam, all of whom worked with Ligurian clay. Tiziana Casapietra, who heads up public relations for the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, and Roberto Costantino, are curating this event.
Then further East, an even bigger global ceramics event is on the books. Korea is hosting the World Ceramics Exposition 2001 Korea, Aug. 8-Oct. 28, 2001. This three-month-long ceramics festival will celebrate both ancient and contemporary ceramics.
Sponsored by the Korean government, International Academy of Ceramics (IAC), National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts and the American Ceramics Society, the event will be held in three different cities in the Kyonggi Province, including Ichon, Yoju and Kwangju. Exhibitions will range from archaic pottery to contemporary wares from across the globe. The greats of American ceramics -- Betty Woodman, Peter Vouklos and Ruth Duckworth -- will be featured, too.
Clearly, the Korean government is going out to promote ceramics on a number of different levels. The IAC will hold its 39th annual council meeting during the exposition and a major ceramics symposium featuring leading authorities is also planned.
If ceramics hold no interest, then fans of FFF (Fine French Furniture) should head to the Riviera and take in the 14th annual Biennale des Antiquaires de Monaco at the Sporting d'Hiver, Place du Casion in Monte Carlo, Aug. 1-15, 2001 (phone 377 93 15 93 94). It was initiated by the most superlative of Parisian FFF dealers: Jacques Perrin and Maurice Segoura along with Old Masters paintings dealer Mario Bellini, who is based in Florence.
What's new? Les pères Perrin and Segoura are including their sons, Phillipe and Pierre, respectively on the eight-member organization committee and they'll put a younger spin on this event. "We hope to attract the younger generation," says Pierre Segoura, who is 40.
With a total of 30 dealers, 13 hail from Paris with the balance from Belgium, Italy, Monaco and Switzerland.
In terms of haute French furnishings on display, the caliber matches that of the Jayne Wrightsman rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On view with Perrin is a spectacular Règence eglomisé (the 18th century technique of painting on the back of glass) mirror priced at just over $250,000. They are only other four other known such examples and one is in La Musèe des Arts Décoratifs. Then a lavish Louis XIV armoire in marquetry with ormolu mounts dating from 1680 is priced at $600,000. While such "palace furniture" has long been regarded as geriatric in this country, Jacques Perrin says there are younger clients collecting now.
Painting dealers are represented by Galerie Fabien Boulakia, Piero Corsini, Fabrizio Moretti and Berko, to name but a few. And Fabien Boulakia is touting a Kees van Dongen La jeune mère from 1906 for $2 million. "The clients at the Biennale are Americans, Germans, Italians, Swiss and of course, the French, holidaying on the Côte d'Azur," says Fabien Boulakia from his Paris gallery.
Then Berko is taking a bevy of Belgian paintings, including a landscape by Georges Mooren for $236,000 along with a pair of Loyuise Voordecker flower paintings from 1842 for $113,000. "These are exceeding rare paintings and the perfect complement for 18th-century French furniture," says Tom Raemgonck from the Brussels gallery.
Even if the wares are beyond one's budget, just taking in the super gilt furnishings and the bejeweled crowd, too should be spell-binding. Keep in mind, the biennale is under the patronage of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, so you should spot a Grimaldi or two.
BROOK S. MASON writes on the fine and decorative arts.