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This a reference not just to the arrival of a new Right-of-Centre government, traditionally more pro-art market than the Left, but also to Deydier’s long-standing friendship with President Chirac, who will be inaugurating this year’s Biennale in person. “I have enormous backing,” Deydier told the Antiques Trade Gazette.

Deydier has invited a plethora of ministry officials to the Biennale, “so we can explain our problems to them,” and is as keen as Poulain to jettison import VAT, promising to mount a united front with BAMF’s Anthony Brown.

The application of Unidroit (the international treaty aimed at preventing illicit trade in heritage items) is another major concern for Deydier. The convention was given a first reading at the Assemblée Nationale in January, but is yet to be ratified by the French Senate. The Assemblée accepted the convention in principle, but expressed various reservations about its application, which Deydier will fight to see incorporated in any new law.

Deydier is particularly hostile to Chapter III of the convention, concerning the return of illicitly exported goods to their country of origin; the Syndicat has resigned from the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Objets d’Art over its “ambiguous” attitude on the matter.

Another focus of Deydier’s attention is a major new fair, provisionally known as Antiquaires du Monde, to be launched at the Carousel du Louvre from September 12-23, 2003.

This sets out to differ from the Biennale by being less expensive (a budget of €2-3m – about half that of the Biennale), more commercial (stands of 9-36m2 priced at around €600/£390 per square metre, plus tax), larger (up to 150 exhibitors), and organised thematically into six zones: tribal art; ceramics; furniture and objets d’art; carpets and tapestries; pictures and sculpture, and jewellery, silver, coins and books.

The new fair aims to absorb some of the smaller, independent salons that have mushroomed in Paris in recent years, starting with the Biennale des Arts Asiatiques, newly established this year. “Joining up with the new fair will give us access to the SNA’s organisational machinery and advertising budget,” explains Antoine Lebel, president of the Paris Asian Arts Dealers’ Association.

The new fair hopes that 15-20 per cent of exhibitors will come from outside France (compared to 25 per cent at the Biennale) and aims to offer a showcase for many French dealers not present at the Biennale.

That reasoning is not to everyone’s taste, least of all to some of the 25 dealers who have been excluded from the streamlined 2002 Biennale. Furniture dealer Gérard Bareyre has been quoted in the French press as saying, “It’s strange to exclude us from the Biennale, then ask us to take part in this new fair,” while a handful of other dealers have threatened legal action against the Syndicat over the method of their Biennale exclusion, which, they claim, has caused them economic prejudice and harmed their reputations.

Deydier appears more concerned that the recent stock market slump may incite investors to buy shares rather than works of art. “The Biennale will be tough,” he admits, “but that doesn’t mean that collectors won’t be buying. They’ll be looking for exceptional items… there’s scant demand for run-of-the-mill pieces.”
Deydier feels the standard of this year’s Biennale – boosted by the arrival of Partridge, Vanderven & Vanderven, and Canada’s Landau Fine Art, and the return of heavy hitters like Ariane Dandois, Maurice Segoura and Jan Krugier – will be “significantly higher” than the 2000 edition.“Paris,” he says, “is fighting back, slowly but surely.”