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The fair organisers reported a “frank success” for jewellers and insisted that “buyers were very present on stands devoted to furniture and the decorative arts”; but noted, more cagily, that picture dealers – in both Old Masters and modern art – had declared themselves “satisfied with the contacts made during the fortnight.”

The barons of the French furniture trade, who founded the Monaco Biennale 28 years ago, continue to lend it international gloss and indefatigable optimism.

In the words of the Biennale president, Jacques Perrin, “the rules of our profession, and our desire for excellence, remain the same despite the ups and downs of a world in constant flux. Maintaining our values remains our best guarantee!”

He insisted at the outset of the Biennale that “in this luxury setting, we have a duty to present the finest objects, impress collectors, and imbue future connoisseurs with a taste for the unique”.

Perrin is also “moved by a long-term vision and desire to preserve what we have created”, which, in practical terms, means gradually handing over the gallery reins to the second generation. Perrin says he is striving “for the name of Perrin Antiquaires to remain a reference in 200 years time”, and his son Philippe was in charge of the opulent Perrin stand in Monaco, offering a Louis XIV sphinx console at €750,000. Biennale co-founder Maurice Segoura was also taking a back seat, with his son Pierre manning a stand that included a sycamore marquetry table en chiffonnière stamped Carlin and priced at around $800,000.

Front-rank Old Masters, modern art, sculpture, rugs and tapestries were all available at the Biennale, although jewellery remains its other strongest suit. There was a typically high-carated display here from Laurence Graff, joined this year from London by Jeremy Morris and Alisa Moussaieff, who was offering a late-19th century pearl and diamond brooch for $180,000. There were five other first-time exhibitors at the 30-stand fair, which included 11 foreign dealers (from the US, UK, Germany, Belgium and Italy).

The Biennale, a lengthy event (17 days this year), regularly attracts over 15,000 visitors, although attendance at this year’s Biennale was slightly down on hopes at around 10,000, and is considered a key event in Monaco’s ambitious programme of “cultural tourism”.

Tourism accounts for 14 per cent of Monaco’s income and, despite the recession, the Principality continues to invest heavily in tourist infrastructures. Two storeys have just been added to the deluxe Art Nouveau Hermitage hotel, and a new breakwater has been constructed to enable the main Monaco harbour to welcome even larger yachts and cruisers, whose passengers are wooed by the Biennale’s leisurely opening hours of 4-9pm.

In the words of Michel Bouquier, head of the Monaco Tourist Board: “We consider culture a true motor of tourist promotion.” However much business is done at the Biennale – something never easy to assess – its future seems assured. Says Bouquier: “it incites a high-income clientèle to come to Monaco which, in turn, encourages international antique dealers to return every two years”.