Modern tangos with old at Marché Paul Bert Serpette 70th flea market anniversary


The Marché Paul Bert Serpette at famous Paris flea market Les Puces de Saint-Ouen may not be as old as the Queen of England, but when you’ve been around for 70 years, it’s time to celebrate. And that’s what it did in style on Thursday June 16.

It may be called a flea market, but fleas are not what come to mind when you walk around Marché Paul Bert Serpette, one of the 14 markets that make up Les Puces de Saint-Ouen that sprawl over an area the size of several football pitches. Although some pieces are so worn with age old they might look flea-bitten, but that gives them their patina …
Greenery tumbles down around the hotchpotch of small two-storey buildings built around the alleys and central covered market, which has a village-like atmosphere.






The antiques and bric-a-brac available to buy are as streamlined or eclectic as the 8000 or so people that wandered around. As it was a party, most dealers had laid on a spread. You’d stop here and there to snag a sublime piece of creamy herb-encrusted cheese, a hunk of bread, a mouthful of red wine, or just some plain crackers, while trying not to feel like you were gatecrashing. The nibbles were as elaborate or as simple as their shop’s interior décor and pieces on display …

Each has its own style depending on the dealer’s period, so very ornate Louis XI can have the sober nineties for a neighbor. Wandering around you feel rather like you’re getting a glimpse of someone’s private living room as you peer into each one. Except you can buy anything you see. And that’s the charm of Les Puces.

The atmosphere in the alleys has the feel of a market in Marrakech. You come across things you never imagined could exist, that you didn’t know you could want. Well, perhaps a sheep dyed red so its wool would be ready to knit a sweater would not make your wish list. But the effect among the flock of its snowy white counterparts was effective as an ensemble.

Or how about a miniature guillotine? That caused debate among those who walked past it as to what it would have been used for. Cats? Hands? It certainly has its place among the macabre setting of skulls, skeletons and the ubiquitous black (stuffed) raven dotted about the open room.

A billiard table may not be so unique but when intricate marquetry surrounds its imposing wooden base it’s a work of art.

Party-goers themselves could be integrated into a work of art as international street artist JR (the one who recently made the Louvre pyramid disappear) used the occasion to create a live piece of his art. Those brave enough had a second frozen in time in the van of his Inside Out collective project. JR then took the poster-sized photos ejected and tiled the market’s exterior walls with them.

As the dark descended fuchsia pink lights started strobing in front of the Ma Cocotte restaurant designed by Philippe Stark and the main alley morphed into a club-like dance floor. What must the chiseled Greek statues looking on have thought? Probably envious as people moved to Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and – just like the Puces – older and newer tracks. Not quite your 18th century chamber music.

Here is a link to the Marché Paul Bert Serpette official website for more photos

The party may be over but if you want to experience the Puces with a musical backdrop, the weekend continues until June 20 with the Jazz Festival des Puces, featuring Thomas Dutronc, Larry Carlton and Didier Lockwood among others.

Otherwise, save the date for the third weekend in September, when Les Puces have their annual night-time opening. Or go for a wander any weekend to see the infinite mix of styles and objects.

Puces de Saint-Ouen

Saturday 9am to 6pm.

Sunday 10am to 6pm.

Check times in August.

Monday 11am to 5pm.

Métro: Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) / Garibaldi (line 13)

Author: Zoe Harris
Photo Credits: Paulette Chheav @ Balades Photographiques

France Larissa