The annual sales figures issued for several of the major French auction houses (or French branches of international auction houses) showed that for many, though not all, they saw an increase over the previous year despite what has been a difficult economic climate.
Christie's and Sotheby's both produced
statistics for their Paris rooms for the January to December
ended the year with €188m worth of sales, a slight increase
of 3% over 2012 though still shy of the €190m chalked up in
recorded €186.5m of sales at auction - down on the €193.5m
recorded in 2012 but a figure that reflected more business in
private sales. These totalled €43.3m in 2013, a 14% increase on the
previous year and took their final combined sales tally to €230m,
not far short of 2012's €231.4m.
recorded a substantial 24% increase over 2012 for their
auction sales, bringing their figure to €178.1m, not far behind the
two 'Anglo-Saxon' rooms.
The increase in private sales - a
process appealing to vendors who prefer to do business away from
the glare of the rostrum - is a feature that has been noted
worldwide across the major salerooms. The other ongoing trend
stressed by these three rooms is their increasing reliance on
Christie's said that 75% of their
sales by value went to foreign collectors. Sotheby's noted that 67%
by value and 78% by volume of their sales were to overseas buyers
(and 56% in value were consigned from abroad), while Artcurial said
that 70.5% of their lots sold in excess of €50,000 went to
Other end-of-year figures came from
Tajan, whose €42m for this year represents a 12.5%
increase on 2012, and Piasa, who increased their sales by a
substantial 33% on last year at €36m. Around a quarter of Piasa's
sales (€9.5m) were provided by their department of design in their
newly created Left Bank saleroom Piasa Rive Gauche, which opened
The Drouot auction
collective, a cooperative of 74 participating members, made €407m
This represents a drop on the €431m
recorded in 2012 partly accounted for, say Drouot, by a three-month
reduction in activity due to extensive renovation but also "a
marked slowdown in the French economy especially in the second half
of the year". The collective went on to note, however, that there
had been compensations, particularly in the strong presence of
foreign buyers bidding both in situ and via the DrouotLive online
Beyond Paris, the
Ivoire group, which has now expanded to 12
regional auction houses with the addition of rooms in Angers and
Bordeaux, posted a sales figure of €65m against €77.2m in
There have been buoyant performances
and individual results in some of the sectors that are traditional
French strongholds: books and manuscripts; Art Deco and decorative
arts and photographs.
The importance of Paris as a centre
for the Tribal art market is underscored by both Sotheby's and
Christie's making it their European centre for ethnographica
auctions, with €17.7m worth sold at Sotheby's and €11m at
Christie's in 2013.
Strong individual results have also
been recorded elsewhere, for example the wooden ancestor figure
from the island of Tanimbar in the Indonesian archipelago which
fetched €330,000 (£289,475) at Binoche and
Giquello last December.
There were also strong performances in
the fields of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art, which
produced several of the highest individual prices of the
Sotheby's recorded the year's highest
price for a painting sold in France when they obtained €5.7m (£5m)
for Modigliani's Portrait of Roger Dutilleul in
December, one of 26 lots that passed the €1m mark in their rooms
this year, while Artcurial obtained €5.3m (£4.65m) for Aristide
Maillol's sculpture La Rivière when they
auctioned works from the collection of the sculptor's muse, Dina
Vierny, on December 2.
And, as in other art centres around
the world, Jean-Michael Basquiat made a mark when Sotheby's sold
his Crown Hotel (Mona Lisa Black Background) for €5m
(£4.38m) in June, while Tajan obtained €1.045m (£916,670) for his
Untitled self portrait of 1985 in
Christie's highest price of the year
was provided by a piece of top-flight medieval sculpture, the mid
15th century alabaster figures of mourners from the tomb of the Duc
de Berry, which realised €3.5m (£3.07m) in November.
It would be very unusual not to see
Asian art figuring prominently somewhere in any listing of top
auction results. Last year the highest price recorded at Drouot by
a very large margin was the €3.75m (£3.17m) paid out in
Junefor the rare Tang dynasty painting of the cortege
of the Empress Wu Zetian.
The result was something of a sleeper.
The fragmentary painting, which was featured among a collection of
Chinese paintings offered for sale by Thierry de Maigret in July
last year, was guided at a modest €1500-2000.
It was not, however, the most
expensive Asian work sold in France last year. That price was
bested out of town by a Japanese Edo period export coffer sold on
June 9 at the Château de Cheverny in the Loire by Rouillac. It
ended up going to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for €5.9m
Looking forward to this year, the
spring will see a major sale in the field of decorative arts when
two of the auctioneering heavyweights, Sotheby's and Artcurial,
once more join forces to sell the 20th century collection of Felix
Marcilhac in March.
* Sales totals given in this article are
premium inclusive, but individual results are hammer
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