French Auction Houses Decline

Christie’s was top auction dog in France in 2012, selling €231.4m worth of art at auction and in private sales.

Art collectors continue to witness a decline in the old independent French auction houses.

If you just take auction sales, the firm totaled €193.5m, a drop of 2.8 per cent from 2011, but private treaty sales – which were finally authorized in France last year – boosted the result by €37.9m, making an increase of 12.7 per cent over 2011.

Its star lot was an 18th-century Chinese sculpture that made €9.3m, shown here. It was the highest price in France last year.

Just below Christie’s, in second place, came Sotheby’s France with €182m, a drop of 4.2 per cent.

The firm does not separate out private treaty sales but said that these “were in line with the rest of the company at about 15 per cent”. Its consolation prize was achieving the highest price for a painting in France, made by Picasso’s “Tête de femme” (1939), which sold for €6.33m.

The number three slot went to Artcurial, which had its best year ever, racking up €144.3m, up 13.4 per cent over 2011, mainly achieved by sales of Asian art.

Drouot, -- the French consortium of smaller auction houses -- continued its long decline with sales of €430m, a 10.8 per cent drop over the previous year.

Hôtel Drouot consists of 16 halls hosting 70 independent auction firms, which operate under the umbrella grouping of Drouot.

The firm's main location, called Drouot-Richelieu, is situated on the Rue Drouot in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, on a site once occupied by the Paris Opera's Salle Le Peletier. The nearest Métro station is Richelieu - Drouot.

Other locations are Drouot-Montaigne (see today's Featured Video), Drouot-Monmartre, and Drouot-Véhicules.

Details of forthcoming auctions are published in the weekly Gazette de l'Hôtel Drouot, sold at newsstands and by subscription.

In 2008 Hôtel Drouot was ranked fifth by sales amongst Paris auction houses, after Sotheby's, Christie's, Artcurial, and Tajan. Now it is ranked fourth.

History

The Hôtel Drouot was inaugurated on 1 June 1852. From 1976 to 1980, while its present building was being constructed, sales took place in the former Gare d'Orsay.

In 2000, reform of the monopolistic French auction laws, regulated through the system of commissaires-priseurs, challenged Drouot with international competition, namely Christie's and Sotheby's. It is now owned by a subsidiary of BNP Paribas.