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
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
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'
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
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