Hunting and Gathering

It has been a good week for hunting and gathering. At Drouot, the auction house, there were 15  auctions taking place throughout Wednesday afternoon.  I was commissioned by a young friend to bid on a (Hermes) Kelly bag as two were on offer at the fashion auction. I don’t quite approve of the brand obsession attached to the Kelly,  but I was happy to go, catch the scene, and drop by another auction, this one devoted to antique textiles. Imagine. A roomful of people interested in dropping a thousand or more euros on a piece of Renaissance embroidery. Talk about specialized.  I love fabric and had to see these lovely pieces of textile art as they came out. This is close to the  way they looked: 8a4454c80b75d78c628d974e3276e1c977219ddbd6b9b552c6228fb150986cee Beautiful, no?

I also had a second motive. Remember that Kuba fabric from Zaire that I hankered for at the flea market? Here is a reminder:01bb5960f265b02868cb8fbce9b04e8e96231491fc  I had learned on-line that  there was a lot on offer containing three pieces. I sat expectantly and in due course the lot came up, described somewhat sniffily as “Du raffia”. What luck. In this crowd of high rollers no one was interested in “du raffia”, and so it was mine for 25 euros. How much did that flea market guy ask for one piece of the same? I think it was 75 euros. Here  are my trophies.

019aea9edbf14ae711240bf02d1f903f7428cb7afd  Here is what they will look like if I make them into pillows. What do you think? Should I frame them instead?

411fc990a6a17742c813846d1dbd8ab0  I have been reading about how the artisans weave these, husbands and wives sharing the tasks of collecting palm leaves, stripping and tufting the fibres. Quite interesting. But I could not rest on my laurels. There was fashion to be had.

Upstairs in the fashion auction, a roomful of women resembling Lee Radziwill were packed like proverbial sardines. It was easily as interesting watching them as the Chanels, St. Laurents and Givenchy’s coming off the racks.There were hundreds of items sold and the auctioneer handled the bidding from the crowded room as well as from a crowded table full of Drouot staff working the phones and computers. She was very amusing, full of patter, “Mais c’est ravissante!” , “C’est du Sonia” (Rykiel), “Jamais vous ne le regretterez”. There were many bargains, especially if you long for a little black dress, an impossibly chic black suit or two, or a fur. Personally, while I admire these items, they do not actually fit into my lifestyle. Perhaps I should change my lifestyle. The furs were going for A SONG – by which I mean 200-250 euros. For mink. In my view you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about the mink because you got it second-hand. Someone else was responsible for its death, there is no point throwing it in the garbage now.  Unfortunately for Sophie, the Kelly bags were not going for a song, unless that song is “Money, Money”. They brought 500 and 1000 euros respectively. I think that’s ridiculous but no doubt there are a couple of people out there convinced they got a bargain.

You might think that I would have had quite enough by now, but auction-going is not for the weak. The last hour is the crazy hour and I had spotted just the right kind of junky/garage-sale-esque auction going on in the basement. It was me and a bunch of guys named Salim as things got down to the wire. Amidst the pseudo-antiques there were some quite nice things and they were going for nothing. I mean it this time. A piano in good working condition went for 20 euros. I had spotted a stack of rugs and I was thinking that a couple of small ones would probably fit in my luggage. The rugs came on last. They brought out the small ones and slapped them down on the table. A cloud of dust rose up. They were selling all of the small ones (10? 12?) in one lot! What to do? How could I take all of them? I didn’t want all of them! But the auctioneer couldn’t even get 20 euros for them. The price came down to 15 euros. My mind was racing. And as it did so the lot sold. Rats!  No matter, Salim assured me. “You will find many things here.” No doubt. Tomorrow, Hunting and Gathering II.

See the Flea

If you have been following, you know where I will be on Saturday morning. Here’s what I saw at the flea market today.

01801a003869bdc24c214a28fea272d16235a7ac19  We’re off. Look at that chandelier.

01eeb30adbfd809f191a7b87725198f3d24ba14957 Early on, I was taken with a big stack of sketches from the model in sanguine conte. They were stamped to authenticate, looked to be 19th century and were going for only 10 euros. So tempted. Under the umbrella were some great looking modern works.


01a7f53ea459c6bff1a67e0df6839aedbc339e135b  I was interested in this whole table of old cameras.

01c4d1e35e6fdb84d1c2149168ea71e3d3dda5fd94 These alabaster pendants were really cool. Why didn’t I get them?

01933309e31d29b86319e5c19a240ce172d2836bfe Vintage cloth from Zaire and Cameroon. Each one is a masterpiece of abstraction. There are many different colors and sizes. All QUITE expensive, 175-400 euros. 01bb5960f265b02868cb8fbce9b04e8e96231491fc I have to figure out the pricing on these.

01219f820c2575450a383479de2e297a4ddd90f79cIn the meantime, This guy was adding to the merriment with his tinkly piano. I was getting into the jewellery vendors.


And finally, I settled on little doodads for making jewellery. Spent too much. You know, each piece is only a euro but before you know it…. Anyway, I will make something beautiful. I hope. I especially like the coins and tear-shaped pearl. I find that I have reverse buyer’s remorse. The pendants, the sketches. Oh well, there’s always next week.


The Mother of all Auctions

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Hotel Drouot is the largest auction house in the world. On a quiet day, there will be five or  more auctions taking place simultaneously and it is possible to wander from one to the other to take in the drama of this special and intense world. On their website, you can find out which auctions are taking place and even access the catalogues to see in advance if anything interests you and learn  the estimates. Today, the auctions included  Eastern Art and Antiquities, Fashion, Nineteenth Century Art, Furniture and Objets d’Art and Jewellery. Thousands of Euro’s change hands by the minute and there are many surprises as the hammer comes down. I love to see big bargains, even if I am not the one taking them home.


Uncharacteristically for me, I was going to see jewellery today. I don’t have a lot of jewellery; what I do have is good and classic, although I also have a weakness for vintage brooches. More on that another time. Let’s say that you are in Paris, and you are celebrating what the French would call an Important anniversary, and your dear Parisian friend, Genevieve, more on her another time, said that you had to go to the jewellery auctions because the bargains were just, well, ….. (she shrugs). My indefatigable husband and I boarded the bus 67 and a mere ten minutes later, voila!photo 1

You can tell you’re there because the neighbourhood has so many antique stores of many kinds.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3Store windows with lovely prints, stamps (still big, who knew?) and antique books. I have never been in these stores. Seem a bit scary….

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Inside, the auctions are hotting up. Standing room only.

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Look closely at the fashion auction. The Louis Vuittons are stacked up on the runway.

Now let me explain a little something. I am a prudent shopper who does not give in to impulse. I like to check out all my options and when I see something I want to buy, I wait til the next day and see if I still want it. This shopping style does not work at the auction, so I have had to change. However, I did my online research and knew what i might bid on and had an idea of how high I would go. Still, in the thick of the auction/action, it’s a heart-pounding, high adrenaline moment. SOMEONE IS BIDDING AGAINST ME, HELP!

Fear not. I won the day, my husband next to me,  clutching my hand and beaming. Here is my trophy, an extraordinary bargain, bought well under the Drouot estimate. As we strolled away, I found myself humming the Marseillese. photo

Lot number 14, an eternity band, diamonds set in a platinum cross setting. C’est magnifique, more than I could hope for. Thank you, Alan, for so many great years.