Drouot, the umbrella organisation which groups all Parisian auctioneers, has announced turnover for 2000 of FFr4.45 billion (£428m, $636m), of which sales of art and antiques represented FFr 3.55 billion (£344m, $450m). This is an increase of 14 % over the previous year.
The figures are hardly a surprise and reflect the strength of the art market world-wide last year. The increase in France comes mainly from the decorative arts, with two new records (in France) for furniture.
The prices were made within hours of each other in December: first, a pair of Louis XVI cabinets in Boulle marquetry signed E. Levasseur made FFr25.475 million (£2.45m, $3.6m), in a sale held by Tajan (who is now part of Bernard Arnault’s LVMH group). The second highest auction price was achieved by a Transition commode by Leleu, which fetched FFr22.153 million (£2.13, $3.16m) at Piasa. The most expensive painting sold in France last year was Cranach the Elder’s “Venus and love stealing honey,” which made FFr18.748 million (£1.8m, $2.68m),
The announcement is a bit of a swansong for French auctioneers, who are facing the biggest challenge since their semi-official status was instituted in the mid-16th century. From this year the auction monopoly disappears, allowing heavyweights Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips to conduct auctions in the country. No-one however is holding their breath for application of the reform, as the decree which will actually activate it is still winding its way through various French administrative intricacies.
It still has to get past the French Ministry of Justice and the Conseil d’Etat: then a request to conduct sales will have to be sent, in writing, to the new Conseil des Ventes.
Here Sotheby’s, Christies et al should be able to leapfrog the 450 French auctioneers who will also be applying; even so, it seems unlikely that any major sales will be organised by foreign auction houses before the autumn.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Drouot reports 14% increase'