It’s Christmas very soon and of course you have not found any presents yet… Here are a few ideas for you. Inès Olaechea who used to run a beautiful shop of Mexican earrings and handbags on rue de l’Université is now marketing Marine Breynaert‘s lamps and candle holders and she is having a private sale until December 24, at 46 rue de Varenne. You need to register here or call 0669305786 to get the access codes. Naïla de Monbrison has her usual magical earrings and necklaces on 6 rue de Bourgogne with creations by Violaine Febvret, Anke Vrignon and Brita. Isabelle de Borchgrave shares a space with florist Christian Tortu on 16 rue de Turenne where she presents her famous paper, and now bronze, pleats and Sophie de Laporte exhibits her tondos at Galerie Pierre Alain Challier, rue Debelleyme. But the surprise of the week was the Special Prize of l’Académie du Renseignement in the non fiction category which was awarded to Ben Macintyre, an author recommended to Editions de Fallois by Daphné and Henri Bernard, who translated “Agent Sonya” in French. The very secret ceremony was a unique moment where Andreï Kozovoï received the Grand Prize of the Académie for his book, “Russian Secret services” published by Editions Tallandier. He has recently published a biography of Brejnev.
It was quite an exciting moment to walk into Ecole Militaire for the award giving of The Grand Prix de l’Académie du Renseignement. Everything had been very secretive about the organization and one felt like entering the stage of the film “Le Bureau des Légendes”, “the Bureau” in English, which describes very precisely the world of French Intelligence services. We knew that everyone in the room belonged one way or another to the secret services and no names were quoted for the members of the jury. All we knew is that the Prime minister, who could not attend at the last minute, was represented by a prefect and Hugues Bricq, the National coordinator of Intelligence services and counterterrorism, spoke very synthetically of the importance of the prize. The image of the French Renseignement is not as glamorous as it should be and the Academy participates to its good image effort.
With François Chambon, the director of the Academy, the accent was focused on opening this very obscure and hidden world of Intelligence to French society and the 16 books chosen for the prize were selected for their ability to reach a new public. “After each series of “The Bureau” there were at least 25 new candidates who wanted to join our Academy”, said Chambon, who discussed at length how “spies” are perceived in different countries. In Great Britain, they belong to a very chic and elitist world, in France they are not considered at all, in Germany they belong to a specific culture due to the Cold War. Ben Macintyre gave a nice speech describing his heroine Sonya, (Ursula Kuczynski 1907-2000), who worked for the KGB from 1930’s to the 1980’s. Her life story in Asia and in Europe, includes many men who fell in love with her and is a fantastic fresco of deception and adventures. She had a key role in preventing the atomic bomb conflict. The book is a fabulous read in both English and French thanks to the excellent translation by Henri Bernard.
Back to Christmas shopping at the private sale of lamps and candle holders by Marine Breynaert on 46 rue de Varenne. This young designer’s luminary art is comprised of raw lines, industrial parts combined with high quality craftsmanship. Brass, copper, aluminum, marble and granite compose the lamps and opaline or corrugated glass give them a lighter silhouette. Lampshades are made of gold plated expanded steel. The style is very Art Deco and yet contemporary. My favorite is the whimsical Lamp Moon with its colorful stand which comes in two sizes.
I then crossed the Seine to 16 rue de Turenne, to see the very glamorous paintings and furniture by Isabelle de Borchgrave, who has been the Queen of Brussel’s decorative arts for forty years and joined efforts with florist Christian Tortu in Paris until December 18 th. His fragrances and perfumed candles are also available in the shop. Her world is a paradise of pleated paper, dresses, paintings, bronze armchairs made of a silicon mould on pleated paper. She has a unique taste and I have to admit one wants to buy everything from her aerial suspensions to her sofa.
The creator was in Brussels but Adrien de Liedekerke was luckily in the shop when I visited, and he explained every technique with such charm and enthusiasm that I suddenly wished I had the 21 400€ to buy “The Red Chair”, a large painting hung above the unique sofa made with the studio’s stained canvas cloth. The Belgian artist has a unique sense of decor and the large space decorated with lovely Christmas flowers is festive and luxurious. You can find more modest presents like cushions covered with ultra soft calf skins and painted, for 300 to 500€ or small paintings for 3 500€. Do make the visit because the spirit of Christmas is very vivid there and the warmth of bright colors is particularly cheerful.
Almost next door, at 48 rue de Turenne, Galerie Maria Lund is showing the Danish ceramics artist Bente Skjøttgaard in the most elegant way. The corner gallery has light all around and the works glitter even in the December night. Some pieces of the series belonging to the collection of Musée d’Art moderne (MAM) are for sale there.
A little further along the street, at 8 rue Debelleyme, Pierre Alain Challier is exhibiting beautiful tondos by artist Sophie de Laporte and jewelry from François Hugo’s workshop reedited by one of his heirs, which include designs by Cocteau and Picasso. The works by Sophie de Laporte have matured over the years and her series of round paintings is really very strong. She also shows little illustrations which she made for the religious book she published with Maitre François Martineau “In Extremis” which is available at the gallery.
You see there is a wide variety of presents to shop from books to sofas and jewelry. Do not despair of finding something!
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