La Biennale Paris
Château Balleroy, Friends, Fun and Le Dîner de Gala
By Stephanie Hadik
Each September, as Parisians embark on la rentrée—that is, a return to their daily lives after their summer vacation during the month of August— the Grand Palais welcomes a fantastic ensemble of fine arts and antiques dealers as La Biennale Paris commences.
Previously a biannual gathering known as La Biennale des Antiquaires, the arts fair in its current iteration became a yearly event in 2017, placing it firmly on the annual calendar of art collectors and enthusiasts just as the warmer weather begins to fade into autumn. Christopher “Kip” Forbes, in his second year as Chairman of the Biennale Commission, and the first American to be so honored, characterizes the renamed La Biennale Paris as “the most important fair in its field in France, and one of the most important in the world.” Mathias Ary Jan, president of the Syndicat National Des Antiquaires (SNA), which organizes the event, adds “It will embody our novel ambitions and herald a new era of international recognition for France.”
More than 70 galleries introduced new and repeat visitors alike to exceptional collections of art, jewelry, tapestry and furniture from around the globe for nine days beginning this year on September 8th. Kip Forbes believes La Biennale Paris is unique, due in part to “the expertise of the organizers, the rigorous selection of both the exhibitors and the pieces displayed, the setting in which it takes place—the Grand Palais— and the city hosting it, Paris.” He adds, “It is also an opportunity for me to come to France, which is something I always enjoy!”
A renowned collector of fine art, Kip Forbes graciously hosted an international contingent of friends in the days leading up to this year’s Biennale at the Château de Balleroy, a magnificent property held by the Forbes family since their patriarch, Malcolm Forbes, took over ownership from Myriam de la Cour de Balleroy, the last of the original owner’s descendants, in 1970. The historic chateau was built between 1626 and 1636 by the son of Jean II de Choisy, supplier of wine to the court of Henri IV. The chateau underwent a detailed restoration upon its purchase, with Kip Forbes utilizing his expertise as an art historian to complete its refurbishment, complementing the remaining original furnishings with antique pieces and historic finds.
Late in the afternoon of September 3rd, Kip Forbes’ guests arrived at Château de Balleroy, welcomed, after settling in, with cocktails in Le Salon Louis XIII, originally the main entrance of the chateau and now featuring artwork by Albert de Balleroy and home to a 1623 painting by Claude Vignon. A casual dinner for all commenced afterwards in the Main Dining Room.
After a restful night’s sleep, the first full day in the Norman countryside included an excursion to Château de Brécy and its famous 17th-century gardens, owned by Biennale Commission member Didier Wirth, followed by an exquisite lunch at La Rançonniere. Afterwards, the group proceeded to Colleville-sur-Mer, home of the American Cemetery and Memorial, site of the temporary St. Laurent Cemetery. As the first American cemetery in Europe, it was established in 1944 to hold the remains of American soldiers who perished during the D-Day landings and the invasion of Normandy. After paying their respects, the guests returned to Château de Balleroy. The mood lightened with a recital by concert pianist Romain Bastard and his opera-trained wife, Annabelle Cardron-Bastard, performing pieces by Puccini, Bellini, Schubert and Liszt in the Salon de Musique. A splendid formal dinner followed where the guests, some old friends, some new, enjoyed an evening of good company and conversation.
The final day at Balleroy, before guests would depart the next morning for Paris and the La Biennale Paris Gala Dinner, included a full itinerary, with a trip via coach to Bayeux to view its renowned “tapestry.” A masterpiece that is considered the last great example of Anglo-Saxon art, likely made in England in the 1070s, the Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Norman conquest of England. At close to 230 feet in length,
Cordelia de Castelanne and Melissa Bouygues
its 50 scenes embroidered on linen record the complete sequence of events leading up to the 1066 victory of William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings. Only a short walk from the tapestry, the group made their way over to L’Hôtel Le Lion d’Or for lunch. Upon returning to Balleroy, guests enjoyed a full tour of the chateau by their gracious host, before cocktails in the Balloon Museum, where stables on the property have been converted to properly pay tribute to what many would consider magnificent hot air floating objets d’art—and a beloved pastime of Malcolm Forbes. A cozy pizza dinner in the Old Kitchen followed.
Francoise Nyssen, Prince Amin Aga Khan and Clotilde Courau
Thursday, September 6th, marked the guests’ departure from Balleroy and their return to Paris from the bucolic countryside. That evening, La Biennale Paris, officially open to the general public two days later, welcomed an esteemed crowd of over 750 international art collectors and aficionados for its gala dinner, with more than half of the gala attendees from abroad, including a large number of Social Register members from the U.S., Paris and London.
Jamie McCourt, the US Ambassador to France and Monaco, former co-owner and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, attended, as did Becca Cason Thrash, decorated as a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and revered by the Louvre for her devotion to its success. Additional gala attendees included Social Register chairman Christopher Wolf and Lise Honore-Wolf, Mike and Missy Perlis, Tracey Amon, Peter and Judy Price, Kathleen von Alvensleben, Robert and Chin Lee and their daughter Angel, Marie-Christine Labourdette, Jethro Goldsmith, the Hon. Nick and Jenny Taubman, Aloke and Suchitra Lohia, Isabella R. de Conti-Mikkilineni, Joan Kahn, James Reginato, Dr. Amin Jaffer, Philip Norkeliunas, Manuel Camelo, Harry Moore, Gerry and Lorraine Baron, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Laurel Acevedo, Cameron Kitchin, Thomas Loughman, and Elizabeth Lynch and Dr. Bill Helvie.
Proceeds from the evening benefitted ALIPH (Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas). “I believe this is an excellent idea which is in perfect keeping with the spirit of La Biennale Paris,” says Kip Forbes of the charitable partnership. Jointly founded in 2017 by France and the UAE, ALIPH seeks to protect cultural heritage in war-torn areas throughout the world and is chaired by Thomas S. Kaplan who is, according to Forbes, “himself a great collector whose ‘Chefs-d’oeuvre de la collection Leiden. Le Siècle de Rembrandt’ (‘Masterpieces of the Leiden Collection. The Age of Rembrandt’) were exhibited in the Louvre in 2017.”
(l-r) Elizabeth Lynch, Suchitra Lohia, Lorraine Baron, Isabella de Conti-Mikkilineni, Joan Kahn, Christopher Forbes, Becca Cason Thrash, Laurel Acevedo, Sandra Pabst, Lise Honore-Wolf, Kathleen King von Alvensleben, Missy Perlis
The private showing of the exhibitors began at half past six, with attendees enjoying champagne RUINART Blanc de Blancs and impressive art collections from each of the galleries present. “The décor was also spectacular,” says Lise Honoré-Wolf, of this year’s edition. “I was immediately caught up gazing at the high glass dome of the Grand Palais, entrancing because of the sheer colorful banners floating in the shape of a carousel.” The magnificent design was the work of La Biennale’s artistic director Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who created the grand carousel of banners above collector Pierre-Jean Chalençon’s curated 20-piece collection of Napoleon’s personal objects in an exhibit entitled “Napoléon, l’Empereur sous la verrière” (“Napoleon, the Emperor Under the Glass Roof”).
At half past eight, all convened back at their tables for the grand dinner. The first course was presented by waiters attired in black tuxedos, each holding a round tray with a single plate covered by a transparent dome dressed in subtle flower petals in the same colors as the aforementioned banners, a mysterious swirling fog obscuring what lay beneath the glass covering. Waiters lined up behind each seat, and in tandem lifted their individual domes— Et voilà! Delectable sea food enchantingly presented. The main course was a filet of veal with vegetables and chanterelle mushrooms by Marie Soria, head chef at Potel et Chabot. Dessert was itself another work of art: an egg-shaped pastry, the shell hand-painted with the motif of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s banners. The dessert was an original creation of Cédric Grolet, pastry chef at Le Meurice, who, in late 2017, was named the best pastry chef in the world by Les Grandes Tables du Monde.
Kip Forbes and Christopher Wolf with Château de Balleroy in the background
The following day, after the resounding success of La Biennale Paris, Kip Forbes arranged for his guests to enjoy a private viewing of “Pastels in the Musée du Louvre,” a collection of 120 pastel artworks that were recently conserved and remounted in an effort supported by American Friends of the Louvre, of which Kip Forbes is also the Chairman, as well as by Joan and Mike Kahn. Joan Kahn graciously hosted a tour of the exhibit, along with the museum’s Chief of Protocol, Sabine de La Rochefoucauld. The excursion to the Louvre was a fitting end to a week brimming with history and art, as all said au revoir— but only until next year, when La Biennale returns.
A kaleidoscope of color upon entry. The Gala Dinner in its 30th year of Biennale de Paris on September 6, 2018
Kip Forbes with Jamie McCourt, the US Ambassador to France and Monaco
Becca Cason Thrash, decorated as a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor