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Arms giant Dassault backs “cultural and artistic hub” for French auction Market

Briest allies with Artcurial

One of the first signs of the “new order” in the French auction market is the alliance between the country’s third biggest auctioneer, Francis Briest, and the art publisher Artcurial, to create a new “artistic and cultural hub” with financing from France’s massive arms-and-aviation conglomorate, Dassault. It means that the country’s top three auctioneers are now in alliances. Tajan belongs to Bernard Arnault’s LVMH, which also owns Phillips, while the number two, PIASA, has an agreement with François Pinault, who also owns Christie’s. Finally, François de Ricqlès has just moved to Christie’s (see story below).

The driving force behind Briest is Nicholas Orlowski, who bought the flagging Artcurial, a multiples publisher, in 1999. He is mainly a fair organiser, but also works as a consultant to the luxury industry, a crossover like that of LVMH.

François Briest, whose turnover for 2000 was FFr 183 million (£18.3 million; $25.6 million), was recently interviewed by Le Journal des Arts, our sister paper:

JdA: What is your association with Artcurial ?

FB: The capital will be divided between our auction house, Artcurial and Dassault. The new group will be in two parts: first, an art specialist and auction house, Artcurial-Briest; second, under the name of Artcurial, a broad cultural hub comprising fairs, multiples (sculpture and prints), an art bookshop, a gallery, online sales and a non-commercial exhibition area.

JdA: Will all your sales be held in the hôtel Dassault?

FB: No, there will be a selection, with major Modern and Contemporary art sales held in the hôtel Dassault, and the others at Drouot. We are going to broaden our field, moving into book and photography sales.

JdA: Are you thinking of forming associations with other firms?

FB: At the moment we can’t name names, but this is one of our aims.

JdA: You are positioned in the highly competitive Contemporary and Modern art market. Are you worried that this will become even more competitive after Christie’s and Sotheby’s arrive on the Paris market ?

FB: For the last 20 years we have been working in a very competitive market, so we are well prepared. With the reform, Paris is going to regain its re-eminence in the European market, and I think that Modern art sales will return to the capital, despite the fiscal handicaps.

JdA: How do you think the French auction market will look after the market opens up ?

FB: You can tell already: there will be a few foreign auction houses, which are already in Paris, and they will sell on the French market. In Paris, a new area is appearing, between the faubourg Saint-Honoré, the avenue Matignon and the avenue Montaigne. We may see a local quarter, just as in the 18th century, with streets that specialise in one thing.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 119 November 2001