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Italian fast car is the star at slow French auctions

The highest price paid at auction in France in 2015 was for a collectible rather than a work of art. A 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder went for €14.2m (€16.3m with premium) at Artcurial in February 2015.

The sale topped another flat year for total auction sales in the country, though Christie’s bucked the broader trend with sales up 30% on the previous year. Its €234m total represents the auction house’s second best year in France since opening its doors in 2001—though far short of its 2009 best, when revenues were boosted by the record-breaking €374m Yves St Laurent sale.

It was enough to put Christie’s in the top spot in France, leapfrogging Sotheby’s France, which reported a slight sales drop to €210.4m from €213m the previous year.

Snapping at Sotheby’s heels in France, with total sales of €191m, was the Paris-based auction house Artcurial with very similar figures to last year.

Otherwise, Asian art contributed to France’s greatest hits, though general sales in this category were down in volume compared to the previous year. Christie’s top lot was a Chinese 18th-century Qianlong-period hand-scroll in ink and colour on paper, inscribed and signed with two seals. Estimated at €80,000 to €120,000, it sold on 9 June for a whopping €4.9m hammer price (€5.6m including premium).

Sotheby’s top lot straddled the border between collectibles and fine art: a Baulé tribal double mask from Ivory Coast sold for a hammer price of €4.7m (€5.4m, including premium).