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The hammer total of around £3.6m reflected a buy-in rate of just over one third, by both lot and value – results that will not have had auctioneer Francis Briest shouting from the Champs-Elysées rooftops after his first major sales since joining up with ArtCurial, and the majority of his top offerings – works by Vlaminck, Dali, Tanguy, Villon, Marquet and Utrillo, all expected to clear Fr1m – remained on the block, although a
vigorous Vlaminck seascape, La Mer, 2ft 2in x 2ft 8in (65 x 81cm), topped estimate on Fr210,000 (£20,000).

Briest could, however, point to
satisfactory prices for headline works by Warhol and Picasso, whose Homme au Chapeau, a gawky chest-up front-on portrait dated 25 May 1965, on a panel 3ft 3in by 2ft 8in (1m x 81cm), led proceedings with the mid- estimate Fr6m (£571,000) paid by a Las Vegas collector. The fact that Briest was able to claim this as the year’s highest price in France for a modern painting reflects France’s inability to compete at the top level in this sector of the auction market.

Top price for Andy Warhol was Fr1.8m (£171,000) for a 1982 Dollar Sign, 9 x 7in (23 x 18cm). His 1973 portrait of Mao Tse Tung, 12 x 10in (30.5 x 25.4cm), made Fr1.4m (£133,000) and his series of 12 Children Paintings
commissioned by Bruno Bischofberger in 1983 sold for Fr1.65m (£157,000).

The 1956 Jean Fautrier Composition in oil and mixed technique on paper stuck to panel, 2ft 11in x 3ft 10in (89 x 116cm), acquired by the consignor from the Galerie Rive Droite in 1958, was another satisfaction as it sold just over top estimate for Fr1.55m (£148,000).

Buyer’s premium ArtCurial-Briest sales (in Euros) : 21.53% on bidding up to €50,000; 17.92% from €50,000-100,000 and 11.96% over €100,000.