For many years the dynamic duo of Hervé Poulain and René Le Fur were Sotheby’s men: while working as independent commissaires-priseurs, they also organised the firm’s vintage car auctions and held the hammer on many occasions, including at the ground-breaking de Groussay sale in 1999. With the reform of auctioneering in France, many believed that the team would eventually hook up completely with Sotheby’s.
This is not to be. In a surprise announcement last month the pair announced that they were joining the Artcurial-Briest group, which already includes the modern paintings specialist Francis Briest and Neuilly auctioneer Claude Aguttes. It is backed by the arms and aeronautics group Dassault and the Monte Carlo financier and collector Michel Pastor.
It seems that talks between Sotheby’s and Poulain Le Fur finally broke down after two years; the American firm’s need to rein in costs after the collusion case was a decisive element.
The two auctioneers remain loyal to their ex-partner, claiming that they were delighted “against all odds, to have been loyal soldiers with Sotheby’s thanks to the intelligence and determination of princesse de Beauvau-Craon,” the firm’s president.
The newly formed Artcurial-Briest-Poulain-Le Fur group will have an annual turnover of about e60 million (£39m; $54m) and is looking for a snappy new name. Sales have already started in its smart premises, the hôtel Dassault, at the rond-point des Champs Elysées.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Poulain Le Fur in surprise move'