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An overview of Paris’s top five auction houses at the turn of the millennium

Tajan and PIASA lead the list

With the end of the French auction monopoly imminent, the line-up of France’s top five auctioneers last year saw the unavoidable Jacques Tajan in first place, followed by the firms of his ex-colleague Jean-Louis Picard (PIASA), Joël Millon, Francis Briest and Poulain, Le Fur (see box).

Of the five, Tajan belongs to Bernard Arnault via Artemis, and François Pinault has PIASA; Francis Briest, Millon and Poulain, Le Fur are still independent.

Tajan increased turnover by 34%, from FFr 421 million in 1999 to FFr 564 million last year, a good performance outclassed however by sparkling figures from Francis Briest, who racked up a 47% increase thanks to his speciality, modern paintings. His firm is part of the International Auctioneers consortium, which includes Butterfields and the Dorotheum.

Poulain Le Fur’s sales were half those reported in 1999, a year in which the practice was propelled into the number two slot thanks to the Château de Groussay sale, staged jointly with Sotheby’s in June 1999. Sotheby’s now has an agreement with the French auctioneer to hold all its vintage car sales, but the two firms remain independent. In Paris rumour has it that Briest and Poulain Le Fur are in talks about a possible merger.

Turnover for the top five represents almost one third of Drouot’s total sales of FFr 4.4 billion, but adding in the next five only brings the figure to half the total, a sign of how fragmented the French auction market was in 2000.

TURNOVER IN 2000

• Tajan:

FFr 564 million (£52m, $76.6m)

• PIASA:

FFr 384.7 million (£35.4m, $52.2m)

• Millon:

FFr 201 million (£18.5m, $27.3m)

• Briest:

FFr 183.4 million (£16.9m, $24.8m)

• Poulain, Le Fur:

FFr 172 million (£15.8m, $23.3m)

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Paris’s top five auction houses'