At first glance it might be mistaken for a piece of modern art: a thin, metallic structure about 36 inches high, held together by nuts, bolts, and slabs of metal. But although it's up for sale Saturday at Christie's auction house in Paris and it may end up as a decoration in someone's living room, it isn't "art" in the accepted sense at all.
Instead, this heap of metal belonged to a Concorde supersonic aircraft. Less than a month after the fleet soared through the skies for the last time, Air France is auctioning off 218 parts and memorabilia.
The famous planes retired for good in October after 27 years of flight, closing a chapter in the history of aviation. But many admirers are still hoping to acquire their own little piece of history: Concorde air-pressure indicators, signed window panels, high-pressure turbine disks, cabin seats, manuals, or china.
"There is something magical about the Concorde for everyone," says sale organizer Emmanuelle Vidal at the presale exhibition, which has attracted a huge crowd. "The Concorde is a citizen of the world, and in France, a lot of emotion is associated with it because it symbolizes French and British technological genius."
The item that has attracted the most attention is the white conical nose, which captured the essence of the Concorde's sleek and streamlined design. "If I could afford it, I would buy the nose and put it in my sitting room," says a Frenchman admiring the sale's pièce de résistance, which stands in its own room. "It's so sad that it's all over."
Some fans are just curious to see pieces of a technological marvel up close. "I'm not sure these parts are really very beautiful or that I would want them in my house," says one viewer. "But I came to see them for sentimental reasons."
Others are hoping for a more modest share of aviation glory. "I thought one day I would be able to afford a ticket [on the Concorde], but it's too late," says a young Parisienne. "It would be a dream to own one of the dinner sets. To be able to say that you will be eating on plates which were used on the Concorde - well, that is something else."