Wednesday - 27 August 2014

Big three pull away in Paris

17 January 2011Written by ATG Reporter

AUCTION turnover figures for Paris in 2010 show the city’s three major firms – Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Artcurial – gaining market share at the expense of crisis-ridden Drouot.

Sotheby's and Christie's vied for top spot, with Sotheby's posting total sales of €175m (£151m) to Christie's €176.5m (£152m). Sotheby's, however, had more cause for satisfaction: their figure was comfortably their best ever in France, and reflected a rise of 78% over 2009.

Christie's – whose 2009 total was boosted by the blockbuster Pierre Bergé/ Yves Saint Laurent sale – registered a fall of 230%, and their €176.5m total was lower than in 2006 and 2007. If the Bergé/Saint Laurent sale is disregarded, Christie's sales rose 56%, largely due to a single work: the Modigliani head which posted €37.6m, the highest-ever price for any artwork at auction in France.

At each firm, the value selling rate was around 88%, while both firms saw over 60% of lots head abroad. Sotheby's reported that 35% of lots sold in Paris had a foreign provenance; and that new buyers accounted for 28% of sales.

Online bidding gained ground, with Christie's Paris registering sales of €3.3m (£2.85m) over the internet on Christie's Live, up 65% on 2009. Artcurial reported internet sales of €1.5m (£1.3m) in the second half of the year, after launching their own online bidding service in June. Two-thirds of their registered bidders were based abroad.

In terms of overall sales, Artcurial comfortably retained the Paris number three spot with a turnover of €102.8m (£89m), up 28%, thanks largely to the 20th (and 21st) century sectors of the market. Their sales of contemporary art doubled to €20.6m; those of Design climbed 92% to €6m; and the firm remained world leader for comic strip auctions, with sales of €7.1m (up 15%).

Sales at Drouot climbed just 6.5% to €440m (£379m), with nine prices over €1m (compared to 31 at the city's three major firms combined). Drouot's relatively sluggish growth confirmed both a trend now apparent for several years, and the impact of the Cols Rouges crisis that saw the firm's longstanding in-house porter association disbanded after charges of trafficking stolen estate consignments.

Drouot's figure would have been worse but for a spectacular upturn of its leading individual firm, Piasa, after their first full year in the ownership of a private consortium. Boosted by Drouot's highest price of the year, €5.55m for a Yongzheng Imperial vase, Piasa's sales of €45m (£38.8m) were up 38% on 2009, distancing longstanding rivals Tajan, whose Paris sales of €31m (£26.6m) were complemented by €8.2m from sales in Monaco.

Small-scale Drouot stalwarts Beaussant-Lefèvre continued to register an astonishingly low volume buy-in rate (just 9%), but their sales total of €20.5m (£17.7m) was up just 4% on 2009. Their average price per lot sold, €1900, was 20 times lower than Sotheby's (€40,000).

Sales at Pierre Bergé & Associés were down slightly at €46m (£39.7m), split between Drouot (€25m) and Belgium, where the firm remain market leaders (€21m). PBA also claimed to be continental leaders for sales of Design (€8.9m) and Antiquities (€4.7m).

Aguttes saw total sales from their three venues (Drouot, suburban Neuilly, and Lyon) climb 14% to €33.5m (£28.9m). The nationwide grouping Ivoire, comprising 14 firms across the country, also saw combined sales rise by 14%, to €91.6m (£79m).

Meanwhile Drouot newcomers Europ Enchères, in their first full year, totalled €12.5m (£10.8m), bolstered by the highest furniture price obtained by a French firm: €1.49m for a pair of Louis XVI cabinets by Etienne Levasseur. Sign of Drouot's troubled times? The cabinets were sold not in Paris, but in Geneva.

By Simon Hewitt

NB: All figures include buyer's premium

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Written by

ATG Reporter

Back to top