Art market

Collectors drawn to Paris for synchronised mass of art fairs and auctions

But attendance was down at fairs devoted to works on paper


The sheer number of synchronised art fairs and auctions held in Paris at the end of March and beginning of April made the city a destination for collectors, but diluted visitors to each of the events. The mothership was the connoisseurs’ drawings and works on paper fair Salon du Dessin (30 March-4 April, Palais Brongniart), which was joined by the Pavillon des Arts et du Design (28 March-1 April, Jardins des Tuileries), Lorenzo Rudolf’s second edition of Art Paris (31 March-3 April, Grand Palais), the Salon du Dessin Contemporain (25-28 March), as well as drawing auctions at Christie’s (1 April) and Artcurial (30 March) and Christie’s much awaited high-end design sale of the Château de Gourdon collection (29-31 March, see story below right).

Salon du Dessin

Attendance was down at this year’s 20th edition of the respected drawings fair. “People have sold a lot,” said Hervé Aaron, the fair’s president. “The only minus is that attendance has returned to where it was two years ago. Last year, we had the collection of Alain Delon that attracted more people.” He also noted the impact of the other events in the city: “The more things that are happening in Paris the better, but it takes away some of our collectors.”

In addition, dealers spoke of the ongoing struggle to find works in a shrinking market, a theme that resonated at this year’s Tefaf fair in Maastricht (18-27 March). “In old masters, it’s getting more difficult,” said Zurich dealer Arturo Cuéllar. “We’re obliged to go to the salesrooms now to buy things, it’s the big problem in our trade,” added Paris dealer Michel Zlotowski. Indeed, many dealers bought at the week’s auctions (see below) and works at the fair were familiar from recent sales: London dealer Jean-Luc Baroni sold Goya’s The Eagle Hunter, around 1819, for an undisclosed sum, having bought it from Sotheby’s London last July for £881,250.

Nevertheless, the fair’s specialisation ensured that collectors from far afield visited and bought. “Several American collectors who are friends and supporters of the Morgan [Library and Museum, New York] have made purchases for their own collections,” said Isabelle Dervaux, the curator of modern and contemporary drawings at the institution.

Other sales ranged from Alexandre Hesse’s Saint Joseph, undated, priced at €8,000, which sold to a US museum from London dealer Stephen Ongpin to Degas’ Tête d’Homme, 1856-58, priced at €800,000, sold by Cuéllar to a private, European collector having acquired it from New York dealer Jill Newhouse a few years ago.

At Salon du Dessin Contemporain a week earlier, exhibitors felt they missed out on the following week’s crowds. “I’m furious that it wasn’t held at the same time as Salon du Dessin because collectors can’t come to both,” said Berlin dealer Jan-Philipp Frühsorge. Christine Phal, the fair’s organiser, defended the decision. “We had a certain number of exhibitors at Art Paris and at Zona Maco in Mexico [see TAN2/p10] so expecting them to choose between us and them wouldn’t have been easy.”

Pavillon des Arts

The Pavillon des Arts et du Design maintained its reputation as a chic, eclectic fair that brings together design, decorative arts, paintings and primitive arts. “[Patrick] Perrin [the fair organiser] has found a good format, it’s well balanced,” said Belgian dealer Erik Müllendorff.

This edition featured several new design galleries, such as Galerie BSL and NextLevel Galerie, both from Paris. “There’s a new generation of contemporary design galleries here that helps consolidate the market,” said Loic Le Gaillard from Carpenters Workshop in London.

Others were less enthusiastic. “Here we find quality and exceptional paintings but the marketing isn’t strong enough,” said dealer Pascal Lansberg, whose sales included Olivier Debré’s Personnage Homme Débout, 1953-55, priced at €200,000 and bought by a European museum.

Perrin is launching a New York edition in November at the Park Avenue Armory besides its regular edition at London’s Frieze Week.

Art Paris

The second edition of Art Paris under Lorenzo Rudolf, a former director of Art Basel and ShContemporary in Singapore and now director of Art Stage Singapore, saw uneven sales across the 120 stands.

Gallerist Guy Pieters was pleasantly surprised. Sales included Paul Delvaux’s Femme à la Lampe, 1944, priced at €1.25m. “One knows that the quality is mixed and we didn’t expect to sell anything for over €1m.”

Several dealers thought that the selection procedure should be more stringent but that the fair had improved.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Collectors drawn to Paris'