Italy Today

Welcome to Mercanteinfiera

The Italian gathering of antiques, design and vintage collectables

Welcome to Mercanteinfiera

Claudia Astarita

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Ancient trumeaux, furniture made by eighteenth-century cabinetmakers, Meissen porcelain, Gallé vases, Lenci ceramics and exquisite silverware are juxtaposed with eclectic pieces and design objects, alongside iconic vintage collectables, such as Louis Vuitton trunks, the Chanel Kelly Bag or now hard to find gowns from Gucci, Dior, Hermes and Prada. Time ticks at the sound of Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and other high-end watchmaking brands. For the magical gift of luxury jewellery, there are Tiffany, Bulgari and Bucellati.

This is Mercanteinfiera, the international event for antiques, design and collectibles, launching Saturday 25 February at Fiere di Parma. A format like no other in the world, with about one thousand exhibitors offering items spanning over three centuries of style. Creative visions of Baroque, Neoclassical, Pop and Art Nouveau, in part an authentic celebration of the design Made in Italy, brought to us today by human creativity over the years, are on display in Parma until Sunday 5 March.

The figures reveal that the Spring edition is already a success. 45,000 square metres of exhibition space, over 50,000 expected visitors and 200 buyers from the main antiques markets in the world: primarily the Unites States, France, Germany, Argentina, Austria, Russia and Spain.

The authenticity, accurate dating and provenance, techniques of execution and average market value of the piece are also guaranteed by Fiere di Parma, keen to protect buyers and purchasers with the "L'Esperto Risponde" ("Ask the Expert") service, whereby recognised experts give a verbal estimate on chosen pieces. There is also a transportation service for the delivery of purchases overseas.

The gold of the sun and the blue of the sea are the most representative colours of the beauty of Italy, celebrated here at Mercanteinfiera in the exhibition "L'Oro Matto e il gioiello-fantasia nella prima metà del Novecento" ("Gold plated and costume jewellery in the first half of the 20th century") "ll mare sorride da lontano: dipinti, incisioni, manifesti e oggetti intorno all'immaginario del mare" ("The sea smiles from afar: paintings, etchings, posters and objects inspired by the sea").

Costume jewellery (or bijou), more so than luxury jewellery, kept with the times and accompanied Italians throughout the Belle Epoque and the ordeal of wartime, and, smart and fun-to-wear, had a come back during the years of La dolce vita.

The exhibition conceived by Mercanteinfiera traces this journey, beginning with cuff links and sautoir necklaces made in fine murrine glass beads à la Great Gatsby, Edwardian-style "lace" brooches, as well as collarette necklaces, like the contemporary copy of the luxurious Bulgari necklace bought by Richard Burton for Liz Taylor, which brought the dream of a unique décolleté within the reach of every woman.

More than 100 pieces from the main Italian costume jewellery makers of the mid-20th century, such as Ornella Bijoux for Biki, (the Milanese fashion designer behind Maria Callas' elegant look), Emma Caimi, Carla Pellini, Ottavio Re and Giuliano Fratti. This exhibition staged in collaboration with the Museo del Bijou di Casalmaggiore (Italy's only museum of costume jewellery), is curated by historian and jewellery expert Bianca Cappello and museum Director Letizia Frigerio.

Meanwhile, tour guides, period clothing, photographs and advertising posters from the early 1900s recreate the sea as a place for soul and passion, and as a social phenomenon that shaped the Italian way of life. This is the exhibition at Mercanteinfiera's second fringe event. The project was conceived by Paolo Aquilini, Serena Bertolucci, Luca Leoncini, Laura Cattoni and Simone Frangioni from Genoa's Palazzo Reale Museum.

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