Paul Paradis is an art, antique, auction consultant, art historian and also lectures and teaches about the history of antiques and jewelry.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Washington D.C. but grew up in California. First, my childhood was in Los Angeles area, then we moved to Palo Alto where I completed middle and high school.
When and why did you move to Paris?
I arrived in Paris in (oh my goodness!) February 1992. I came directly after completing a Masters in international economics and European political economy at SAIS, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C.. I had a “pull” factor in my private life but had always dreamt of living in Paris since I studied in France as an exchange student in high school. I knew that alumni from my Masters program worked at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and decided I would try get a job there. I eventually did but had a short contract at the Musée d’Orsay, which probably had a lot to do with the path I would chose later in art.
When did you start to take an interest in antiques?
It was a natural progression which started as a general interest and evolved into a passion. Before coming to Paris, during my graduate school years, I was fortunate to live in the basement floor of the most gorgeous home I had ever seen to date, brimming with Chinese export porcelain, silver candelabra, entire flat wear sets sometimes stuffed under the sofa for lack of storage and display space! It was an historic townhouse in Adams Morgan (Washington D.C.) which the owner had lovingly reunited and restored over the years. He was a former aid to President Lyndon Johnson. This experience definitely planted the seed. Once in Paris a friend who loved to go to Drouot and had impeccable taste in decoration also influenced my love of beautiful things. This combined with a natural attraction to 18th century furniture and ormolu drew me to this field.
You have a degree from Christies Education Paris. What was that experience like and how long did it take to get your degree?
The year I spent at Christie’s Education Paris was probably one of the most stimulating and exciting of my adult life. It was an intensive full time degree program (ten months) on the history of French art and I was able to specialize in French furniture as an additional option. Above and beyond the high quality lectures with renowned specialists, the programme included visits to workshops of high level artisans/artists in Paris (silversmiths, printmakers, ébénistes, bronziers etc.) The Paris museums were also our classroom. It was (the program was unfortunately discontinued in 2007) extremely rigorous and thorough and provided a sound basis on which to build future expertise.
You interned at Christies after you received your degree. What are some of the important things you learned?
I was very fortunate (one of three graduates in the class) to be accepted as an intern in the furniture department at Christie’s Paris. One of the first things I learned was how an auction house actually functions inside. The pace of work was rigorous and the time pressure high to prepare sales, complete catalogues and attend to clients. In terms of technical knowledge and understanding of furniture and gilt-bronze objets d’art , the experience was invaluable. Daily sessions of assessing objects and furniture with the in-house specialists, in-depth research behind the works as well as cataloging were the mainstay of the job. The department was very generous to me and I was able to engage in all of the activities important to the job with a high degree of responsibility. I will remain forever grateful.
What period of furniture are you most fond of and what one piece of furniture from this period would you like to own?
Hmmmm, that’s a tough one! I would have to admit that the Régence to early Louis XV period (1700-1730) tends to by a personal favorite. I love the exuberance in the sculpture of gilt wood console with climbing dragons and pierced rock-work stretchers. The French “Rocaille”, more reserved than the Rococo of Germany and other European countries, always establishes the perfect balance and symmetry (despite some playful asymmetry!) with inspirations directly from nature. The work of silversmiths like the great Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier take my breath away, the metal seems to swirl and twist like vines of a living organism. If I could own a piece of important furniture from a public collection it would have to be the commode from Louis XV’s bedchamber at Versailles delivered in 1739, now conserved in the Wallace Collection in London. Based on a design attributed to Sebastien-Antoine Slodz, executed by the ébéniste (cabinet maker) Robert-Antoine Gaudreaus with gilt-bronze (signed) mounts by Jacques Caffieri, this extremely rare chest of drawers is a masterpiece of the Rocaille style with its network of undulating plant-like flaming mounts, rich kingwood veneer and bombé facade. Every trip I make to London includes a moment in front of this one of a kind commode!
What are some current trends and popular things at the auction houses in Paris now?
Quite honestly, I find the art market a tad confusing right now. In the decorative arts, tastes and prices seem to fluctuate regularly. The fervor for high-end French Art Deco appears to continue while there has been a move towards mid-century styles. 20th century design seems to be maintaining its popularity. For the 18th and 19th centuries, prices have been relatively low for a while for more commonplace items, while exceptional one-of-a-kind works can still bring in six figures or more at auction. I am optimistic about the future of this period which still defines French art de vivre and savoir faire to this day, and which the rest of the world still seeks to emulate.
You also work with Drouot auction house. What are some of your activities there?
I attend auctions at Drouot almost every day for clients as well as for my own knowledge and personal enrichment. On a more formal level, I am a teacher at Drouot Formation (a degree program offered by Drouot) of English related to art and the art market. The students learn technical cataloguing vocabulary for several disciplines as well as that necessary to work in an international auction environment. The students are very inspiring as they come from different backgrounds and age groups and all share a passion for art. I also conduct visits of the Hôtel Drouot for groups who book through Drouot Formation.
What are some of the more interesting auctions coming up this spring?
Several of the Parisian auctioneers (Artcurial, Drouot) will offer Old Master and Modern drawings this week to coincide with the annual Salon du Dessin taking place at the Palais Brongniart. A major auction on March 31 at Drouot involving several different auctioneers in collaboration will feature important works by Eugène Delacroix, Antonio Tempesta and Giandomenico Tiepolo. On April 6, the auctioneer Mathias-Baron Rebeyre et Associés will offer a large array drawings, antiquities, Asian art, arms, furniture and decorative objets d’art including a rare collection of ten Anglo-Dutch strong boxes from the 18th century in various precious veneers and gilt-brass metalwork. On April 5-6 Sotheby’s Paris will offer the collection of Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881-1949), an eclectic painter, engraver. fashion illustrator, interior decorator, which will include his original works as well as furniture and objets d’art in his personal collection.
What do you prefer about Paris?
I would have to say first, the beauty of the city itself, its architecture and lay-out, the gorgeous banks of the Seine, the unique light. The accessibility to world class art and culture is definitely the most important aspect of Paris alongside this. The Louvre is one of the largest and important museums in the world, the collections are a complete lesson in the history of art and civilization. Last night I was at a recital listening to the sublime Renée Fleming in the Opéra Garnier (a masterpiece of Napoleon III period) and today I’ll go to the Pompidou Center for a world class exhibition of Anselm Kiefer. The house museums like Nissim de Camondo, Jaquemart-André, Cognacq-Jay hold accessible collections right at the heart of my field with breathtaking and touching examples of furniture and objets d’art. The Carnavalet Museum, which will soon close for renovation, offers a very intimate account of the history of Paris with sumptuous decors from 17th and 18th century parisian Hôtels Particuliers (private mansions), fortunately saved from destruction for us to enjoy today. The list goes on and on. And lastly, there are of course the cafés with their little round tables spread about terraces and sidewalks, a very unique cultural patrimony in and of themselves. No one makes you feel guilty for dawdling over an espresso or glass of wine for two hours while you read your paper, study or just people watch!
Contact Paul @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Eye Prefer Paris Postcards
I am thrilled to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Postcards, a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription service where the subscriber receives three physical postcards of my iconic Paris photos every month. Each month will have a specific theme, from architectural street scenes to romantic outdoor cafes to beautiful gardens to unique shots of iconic monuments. Each mailing will include two postcards in color and one in black & white or sepia, beautifully packaged in a special French Blue postcard holder with a custom designed seal.
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Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $210)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.