PARIS—With Christie’s and Sotheby’s preferring to sell modern and contemporary art in Paris in December rather than during the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC), the annual fair that ran this year from Oct. 17-22, the stage was cleared for two established Paris auction houses to enjoy the spotlight: Artcurial and Cornette de Saint-Cyr. They produced unprecedented results for the French capital, netting more than €50 million ($71 million) between them.
With three individual prices surpassing €1 million ($1.42 million), and 50 above €100,000 ($142,000), the three-day series at Artcurial (Oct. 20-22) yielded €32.8 million ($46.6 million), prompting auctioneer Francis Briest to wax lyrical about “results on a par with those in London.” Bidders hailed from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the U.S., with notably strong buying by French collectors.
Comments Briest: “The so-called financial crash translated into record prices and the presence of more international buyers than ever.”
Modern art yielded €20.8 million ($29.5 million) and was 78 percent sold by lot. Half that total was generated by the sell-out, 15-lot Alice Tériade collection, amassed by Greek-born Paris art publisher Efstratios Eleftheriades Tériade (1897-1982).
Tériade’s widow, Alice, kept the collection in the couple’s Paris apartment and Côte d’Azur villa until her death last February, bequeathing much of it—including works by Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Léger and Henri Matisse—to the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, near Lille, where it will go on view in early 2008.
On Oct. 20 there was lively bidding in a packed saleroom, as well as among 30-odd phone bidders calling from France, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. The top price of €3.2 million ($4.5 million) was given by a European collector for a late Claude Monet, Yellow Irises, 1924-25, acquired by Tériade from the artist’s son Michel Monet (estimate: €1/1.5 million). Pablo Gargallo’s Smiling Harlequin Mask III, 1927, in brass with brown patina (estimate: €150,000/200,000), fell to a French collector for €490,900 ($697,000).
Four unique pieces, made especially for Tériade by his friend Giacometti, sold spectacularly, with two iron-and-plaster chandeliers from the early 1950s leading the way: A Chandelier with Four Cone-Shaped Lights went to a New York dealer for €1.92 million ($2.7 million), more than 15 times the €100,000 high estimate; and a smaller “Tériade” Chandelier with Figures fell to the French trade for €1.86 million, or $2.6 million (estimate: €200,000/300,000).
A patinated-bronze Standing Woman on Cubic Base, 1953, signed and numbered 0/8 and cast by Susse, Paris, was taken by a French collector for €616,700 ($875,714), more than twice the €300,000 high estimate.
Among items of different provenance, two sold to the French trade: A bronze Diego Giacometti Grecque coffee-table, circa 1965, with brown antique patina, won €468,000, or $664,560 (estimate: €200,000/300,000); and an Henri Laurens wood-and-painted-metal Construction, 1917-18, made €776,800, or $1.1 million (estimate: €400,000/600,000).
On Oct. 22 Artcurial sold the Haba and Alban Roussot Collection, dominated by 125 works by Serge Férat (1881-1958), who was born in Moscow but settled in Paris in 1899. The ensemble achieved an 83 percent sell-through rate and generated the top ten prices ever taken for Férat at auction, with Paris dealers Anisabelle Bérès and Bernard Shapiro busy in the saleroom.
The top price earned was €396,500 ($563,000)—more than ten times the previous Férat high, set in Paris in June 2006—for Lacerba, circa 1913-14; it fell to a French private buyer on the phone (estimate: €200,000/300,000).
Artcurial’s multi-provenance, two-session contemporary art sale earned €12 million ($17 million) and was 68 percent sold by lot. Record prices were set for five artists, including: Raymond Hains, €334,600 ($475,1332), for his 1967 Untitled, lacerated posters on sheet metal (estimate: €80,000/100,000); and Bernard Rancillac, €117,724 ($167,170), for his 1964 diptych L’entrée du diable à Panam City (estimate: €50,000/70,000).
Piero Manzoni’s 1958 Achrome, in kaolin on canvas, was acquired by a French collector for the sum of €742,500, or $1 million (estimate: €650,000/850,000); it headed the 77-lot Italian section, which realized €2.2 million ($3.1 million) and was 56 percent sold by lot.
Delon Trove Takes $12M at Cornette de Saint-Cyr
The three sales at Cornette de Saint-Cyr raised €19.5 million ($27.7 million). The 40-lot Alain Delon collection of 1950s paintings totaled €8.7 million ($12.4 million) on Oct. 15, with the big names selling predictably well: €883,000 ($1.25 million) for Jean-Paul Riopelle’s La vallée de l’Oiseau, 1954; and €625,000 ($887,500) for Nicolas de Staël’s Still Life with Frying Pan, 1955—a handsome return on the Fr 1.2 million (about €180,000) it cost at Hôtel Drouot in 1987.
There was solid bidding, too, on several works by Karel Appel, reflecting Delon’s taste for works of COBRA—a group of artists formed in Paris in 1948.
Cornette followed up with a 200-lot multi-provenance sale of contemporary art on Oct. 20-21 that brought €10.2 million ($14.5 million) and was 68 percent sold by lot.
A record was set for César (Baldaccini) as a 6-ton, 20-foot bronze version of his iconic Pouce (Thumb), 1963-88, one of three such castings by Bocquel foundry and formerly on display at the Nahon Gallery in Vence, reportedly sold to a foreign collector for €1.39 million, or $2 million (estimate: €900,000/1.2 million). But controversy shrouded the sale: According to Paris daily Libération, César’s heirs claimed the work belonged to the sculptor’s estate.