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Gourdon collection brings over £30m in Paris bonanza

04 April 2011Written by ATG Reporter

THE mammoth, 875-lot, three-day sale from the collections of the Château de Gourdon staged by Christie's in Paris closed last week closed having raised a hammer total of €35.1m (£31.9m).

On offer were over 600 lots of French decorative arts and design assembled by the collector Laurent Negro over the last 15 years, together with a selection of more traditional antiques and paintings acquired by his father, all of which had been on display at the family's mountaintop château in the South of France.

They were sold in five sessions from March 29-31.

Laurent Negro's aim had been to chart the development of French decorative arts from the luxury of the Art Nouveau and Deco periods through to the more stripped-down utilitarian Modernism as practiced by the Union des Artistes Moderne.

To this end he had put together one of the most comprehensive assemblies of its type, often paying top-dollar prices to secure his many prize pieces.

Set out by Christie's in museum-style period room sets at the sale venue, the Palais de Tokyo in the Trocadero, it was easy to appreciate the scale of the operation.

Christie's succeeded in selling 84 per cent by lot and value to come in at a premium-inclusive €42m, the lower end of an estimate that had been revised from an original high of €40-60m down to €35-50m.

That was no mean feat given that this was never going to be the easiest of dispersals. The sheer volume of material put onto the market, some of it of relatively esoteric nature; its recent acquisition and consequent market familiarity and the high prices that some of it cost, all represented commercial challenges.

To that extent the Château collection was unlike the Yves Saint Laurent/Bergé sale of 2009, to which it was inevitably compared.

St Laurent's €374m (inc. premium) sale with a decorative arts section that netted €59.1m (inc. premium) was put together over a much longer period and was an event which came with the bonus of massive celebrity associations.

Individual results in the Château de Gourdon sale underline this. While eight works sold for over €1m (including premium) and 13 auction records were set, multi-estimate prices were thin on the ground amongst the highlights offered in the first 'masterpieces' session.

Here works carrying hefty expectations by blue-chip names like Eileen Grey and Jean Dunand either sold on low estimate or, in a few cases, failed to get away, most notably Dunand's black lacquer games table and chairs made for Madeleine Vionnet guided at €3.5m.

In the end it was Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann who proved to be man of the match. The French designer's work provided the highest price in the entire sale when his modernist 'skis' chaise longue, sold for a mid estimate €2.5m (£2.27m) to a European collector - an auction record for Ruhlmann.

But it was Ruhlmann's classic Art Deco ivory and exotic veneered creations (extensively represented in the Château collections) rather than his modernist designs that provided the most competitive element in this sale, sparking bidding battles from a small group of determined collectors to sell for multi-estimate sums, like the Lassalle commode pictured on the front page that realised €1.55m (£1.4m).

By Anne Crane

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