Sandrine Souchon and Guy Chadelaud have been avid collectors of 19th century French decorative arts for over 30 years. This week, the husband and wife duo bring their renowned private collection of masterpieces to Hong Kong for their first show in Asia, titled French Belle Epoque.
The exhibition, which will be held at Liang Yi Museum from May 13 to 21 as part of Le French May, is an eclectic and exceptionally well-preserved curation of sculptures and furniture pieces from some of the greatest craftsmen of the era. Malachite, crystal and lapis lazuli artworks feature heavily.
During his visit to Hong Kong, we sit down with Guy to hear the stories behind some of the most interesting pieces in his collection.
Tell us about this collection—how did you acquire the pieces?
I’ve been an art dealer since I was 17, and I collected all of these artworks with my wife. We’ve been slowly building the collection for a long time, and we really chose together all of the pieces from different castles, houses and properties.
How did you get into antique dealing at 17?
My grandmother came [to France] from Eastern Europe in 1921, and all of my family on my mother’s side works in the art market, so I’ve loved it since the beginning.
I studied Art History for a bit and it was interesting, but the art market is really about feeling the object, having an intuition, or an experience… It’s all well and good to study art, but you really need to be hands on, to see the objects and touch them, in order to learn.
How did you meet Sandrine?
We met when we were very young. Sandrine is a third generation art collector, and I sold artworks to her parents. She was 16 at the time—that’s how we met, but I had to wait until she was older so we could be together. The day she turned 18, she just left with me, and we’ve been together ever since. Her parents weren’t very happy at the time (laughs).
Sandrine started working with me immediately, and we bought together, sold together... We created the whole collection together, just the two of us.
Can you tell us about your personal collection?
We have a huge private collection that we don’t sell at all. We don’t even display it. We keep it just for our home. Maybe one day I’ll sell my collection or parts of it—big auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are always asking me [about it], but for now I want to keep everything and just enjoy them.
What are your favourite pieces in your private collection?
One of my favourite pieces are these two cabinets—they’re French-made, but they have lacquered panels with ivory and all these small pieces that come from China. It’s very interesting to have both cultures mixed in one object. Pieces like this, I’ll keep, because I find them really exceptional and I love their history.
I also have this piano—it was one of the best pieces from the 1878 World’s Fair. It’s very large, about three meters long, and it’s painted everywhere. It was bought by Queen Maria Pia, the Queen of Portugal at the time, and she had it in her palace in Lisbon before she gave it to the Queen of France. So that, I’m keeping for sure.
Do you have a favourite kind of furniture or object that you gravitate towards?
I love marble sculptures. The malachite, crystal and tall pieces also.
What is one of the most interesting purchases you’ve ever made?
I bought this pair of sculptures at Christie’s London a few years ago, but they made a mistake with the artist—they didn’t know who it was. We found the sculptures in an inventory of all the works that this sculptor had made, and it was Charles Cordier, one of the greatest sculptors of the 19th century.
That’s why I love the discovery—discovering a piece that was wrongly attributed, for example—that’s the most interesting part. It’s very rare, of course. It’s once in a lifetime. What happens more often is that I might buy a sculpture that says it’s made at an artist’s workshop, but in fact—and this has happened twice—it was made by the artist himself. Small details like this can really change the historical interest of a piece, and the price too.
The French Belle Epoque exhibition runs from May 13 to 21 at Liang Yi Museum, and is open from 11am-9pm daily. Selected pieces will also be on display at Sandrine Souchon's booth at the International Antiques Fair from May 26-30, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
Liang Yi Museum, 181-199 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2806 8280, liangyimuseum.com
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