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As well as Aguttes, the Neuilly-sur-Seine firm assigned the task of coordinating the Aristophil sell-off by a court in March 2017, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Ader-Nordmann have now been approved by the legal administrators.

The four auction houses have gathered under the entity OVA (Les Opérateurs de Vente pour les Collections Aristophil or Auction Houses for the Aristophil Collections). It may take as many as 300 sales to disperse the 135,000 manuscripts purchased under the doomed investment scheme.

“Our collaboration will increase our capacity to highlight the exceptional works of art of the collection, to share its incredible historical value and ensure the swift rhythm of all upcoming auctions for the years to come,” said auctioneer Claude Aguttes.

He conducted the inaugural Aristophil sale at Drouot in December 2017. The auction – which had been stripped of a number of items deemed ‘national treasures’ by the state) – totalled €3.8m. Ursule Mirouët, one of only two manuscripts by Honoré de Balzac still in private hands, sold for over €1m.

Themed sales

All future Aristophil auctions will be thematic.

The courts have approved seven June auctions offered over four days at Drouot (June 15, 18-20). This inventory will cover the subjects: fine art, 19th and 20th century literature, music, history, science and postal history.

It is only through the resale of manuscripts that Aristophil investors will recoup any of their outlay. For more than a decade, Aristophil, run by dealer Gérard Lhéritier, was the biggest buyer in a booming historical letters and manuscripts market, encouraging investors to speculate with the promise of an annual return of 8% or more.

54 collections were formed before Aristophil was declared bankrupt

A total of 54 different collections were formed, with nearly 18,000 investors and contracts totalling €700m, before Aristophil and its subsidiaries were declared bankrupt in 2015.

Shortly afterwards, Lhéritier and five others (including the Parisian bookseller Jean- Claude Vrain) were indicted on charges of organised fraud and tax evasion and the collection seized. The investigation continues.