A garden party feel on Sunday 10 September for the 4th edition of Chantilly Arts & Elegance, a partner of La Biennale Paris. Rendezvous at the Domaine de Chantilly for this event celebrating l’art de vivre, French style of course. One of the world’s most prestigious automobile races…
An anticipated 15,000 visitors, collector’s cars and haute-couture gowns galore, concept cars and models with aerodynamic curves, hair-raising rallies and a forest of fancy hats, whether in felt or straw, bumping into one another on the lawns designed by Le Nôtre… No, you’re not dreaming: you’re well and truly plunged in the pastoral yet motorised décor of Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille, an event held every year in the gardens of the Château de Chantilly. A fête that dares the daring and sets the eye-catching in its sights, combining the most loyal adherence to traditions and the most innovative ideas around. For four years, this event, taking place on the eve of the Biennale’s opening, sets out to be the world’s most prestigious rally of collector’s cars. “The vehicles permitted to take part in this event are all exceptional,” remarks Patrick Peter, president of the company Peter Auto, which organises the day. “Every year, we welcome collectors from all over the world who come to Chantilly to admire them.”
An open-air museum
Sometimes, very little separates one ephemeral museum from another… While people go to La Biennale Paris to contemplate silent works, they head for Chantilly for the very opposite. It’s to the gentle sound of purring engines that Sunday strollers can admire some of the most beautiful cars in the world, specially gathered for the occasion. As every year, three competitions in honour of the most stunning vehicles are at the heart of the event. The most prestigious of these, the Concours d’Etat, draws around one hundred period vehicles – some of the world’s most beautiful and rarest examples – covering about fifteen categories (racing cars, Ferrari,s Ecceterini barchettas…). Throughout the day, one vehicle is selected in every category, and the finalists then vie for the highly coveted title of “Best of Show”, guaranteeing the winner international renown in this milieu.
Meanwhile, the Concours d’Elégance is Chantilly’s historic event, with the first editions dating back to the 1920s. During the Swinging Twenties, the public had the opportunity to see exceptional works created by coachbuilders, escorted by superb muses. Times have changed, but the spirit persists. As the 21st century follows its course, the vehicles in this “elegance competition” now come under the category of concept-cars: supersonic hot rods with gleaming streamlined forms, stainless-steel radiator grills and snazzy rims. Car lovers, step this way. You’ll find in this category, in no particular order, Alpines, BMWs, Bugattis, Maseratis as well as McLarens – all presented to the public by elegant models dressed by top couturiers (Hugo Boss, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Haider Ackermann…). “The Concours d’Elégance is exceptional for its environment and the choice of concepts on hand,” comments Arnaud Ribault, World Sales and Marketing Director for the DS car make.
Finally, the third competition is more for DIY enthusiasts, Sunday aficionados, those who don’t fear getting their hands dirty or spending their weekend pent up in their garages. These are models presented by automobile clubs, often vehicles recuperated in more or less good condition, then revamped with elbow grease… No less than 600 vehicles are presented to visitors in this category every year, the attraction boosted by a giant picnic organised on the garden lawns.
To distinguish the competitors in these three competitions, the vehicles are carefully examined by the sixty jury members, gathered under the patronage of Patrick Peter. Among them, we find professionals and personalities from the world of collector’s cars, including Laurent Hériou (director of the Fédération Française des Véhicules d’Époque), François Melcion (director of the Rétromobile fair), Richard Adatto (expert in French aerodynamic pre-war cars), Michael Bock (director of Mercedes-Benz Sport), Julius Kruta (Bugatti expert and historian of the brand), or former racing drivers such as Paul Belmondo and Quirina Louwman. The public also has a role to play, invited to cast votes for the Concours d’Elégance. Note that 9 September, as every year, marks the Classic Rally for vehicles registered for the Concours d’Etat, and the Supercars Rally for Concours d’Elégance candidates. An itinerary covering around one hundred kilometres is organised for the two convoys, engines revving, over the roads of the Chantilly countryside.
In the shade of a Bugatti Type 57
A warm welcome therefore awaits lovers of motorised artworks this Sunday in Chantilly, for this big automobile event. But those who don’t have much time for engine fumes are also welcome: as the event’s name indicates, it is also designed to pay homage to l’art de vivre à la française. Suffice it to say, there’s something for everyone on the grounds of the Château. After appreciating the world’s most beautiful vehicles, you can choose to withdraw from the hype to the shadows of the domain’s Great Stables or its museum, in which the layout of the Duc d’Aumale’s collections has remained unchanged since the 19th century. You can also find distraction at the equestrian show designed by Mario Luraschi… unless you prefer steeping in the bucolic atmosphere, picnic basket and blanket in hand, in the shade of an Alfa Romeo 8C or Bugatti Type 57. Yet another option: watching, from the lawns, the car sale organised by Bonhams at the foot of the Château, in the late morning…
Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille 2017, Sunday 10 September. Domaine de Chantilly, Rue du Connétable, Oise.
3 questions for… Patrick Peter
You’re supervising the organisation of the Arts & Elegance day, a partner of La Biennale Paris. Which values draw these two events together?
The partnership bringing together Arts & Elegance Richard Mille and La Biennale Paris 2017 is above all based on one common point: a love for exceptional objects. Whether we’re talking about the most beautiful collector’s cars or the most beautiful artworks, both events celebrate the refinement of subtle taste, representative of a genuine art de vivre à la française. Each, in their own way, promotes the wealth and potential of our country’s cultural heritage, a creator of values for the future. Both events present the best of what is being done in their respective domains.
The three competitions are the main events of the day. How does the jury distinguish between the candidates?
These three competitions guarantee magical moments for the public, when they can discover the world’s most beautiful vehicles. Leading up to them, a jury of specialists from all over the world first picks out the participants authorised to take part in the competitions: only the best collector’s cars are accepted. These are then divided into classes – a rigorous job. When it’s competition time, the jury first of all favours the criteria of authenticity and quality: the vehicle’s original state, its degree of restoration, its racing awards… Some collector’s cars are real nuggets of history. This year, we’ve thus decided to pay homage to Ferrari, which is celebrating its 70th birthday. To mark this birthday, we’ve created a special class gathering Ferraris that have participated in the 24 Heures du Mans! This type of car meet is exceptional; this is surely a world’s first.
What, for you, is the most striking memory from the previous editions?
Last year, we had the privilege of presenting to the public an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B, in its perfect original state. Conserved in exceptional conditions, it has been sheltered since the 1930s in the utmost secrecy! Even historians specialising in the brand weren’t aware that such a well-conserved model still existed. It was a very emotional moment when we exhibited it. Beyond this example, I have many other memories in mind… When you observe the great Italian horse trainer Mario Luraschi, I can assure you that this remains engraved in you as a moment of poetry. And then there are the starred chefs, specially invited to the event – a highlight as well!
Patrick Peter is president of the 2017 jury and founder of Peter Auto, an agency specialised in organising car races and events.