PARIS—Last year’s change to the European Union’s droit de suite levy, which introduced a ceiling of €12,500 ($19,300) per lot, has made Paris a more attractive place to sell modern and contemporary art. This was reflected in the unprecedented level of sales staged in the city by Sotheby’s and Christie’s this May, which together yielded over €50 million ($60 million).
Sotheby’s 179-lot contemporary-art sale on May 27 totaled €23.7 million ($37.3 million), with a top price of €4.62 million ($7.3 million) for a Francis Bacon Pope, circa 1958, painted in Tangiers. Next came Joan Mitchell’s La Ligne de la Rupture, 1970-71, at €3.84 million ($6 million). A Jean-Michel Basquiat self-portrait, Untitled, circa 1983, sold for €1.99 million ($3.1 million), a French record for the artist. That price was double the estimate, as was the €1.82 million ($2.9 million) paid for Robert Rauschenberg’s giant, three-part Parliament (Borealis), 1991, involving brass and bronze plaques.
An auction record of €1.15 million ($1.8 million) was set for French artist Georges Mathieu for his 1958 L’Abduction d’Henri IV par l’Archevêque Anno de Cologne. And four works once owned by former French president Georges Pompidou, acquired directly from the artists, found takers, notably Hans Hartung’s T 1964- E20, 1964, which sold for €210,250 ($331,200).
Christie’s 204-lot contemporary sale on May 28 totaled €14.4 million ($22.5 million), with nine individual auction records, led by the €2.9 million ($4.6 million) paid for Louise Bourgeois’s 2003 stainless-steel Spider—which Christie’s claimed as a record auction price for any living female artist. Other French artists who elicited record prices were Martial Raysse, whose 1965 self-portrait Tableau New-Yorkais garnered €928,250 ($1.5 million); Bernar Venet, whose Ligne Indéterminée n°3 sold for €240,000 ($379,000); and Martin Barré, whose abstract composition from 1975/76 took €84,250 ($132,882).
$4.3M van Dongen Leads Imp/Mod Sale
Earlier last month, Christie’s generated €2.5 million ($3.9 million) from its 131-lot sale of Impressionist and modern art in Paris on May 21, which was led by Kees van Dongen’s Le Moulin de la Galette, circa 1905, sold for €2.8 million ($4.3 million), triple the estimate. A posthumous casting of Auguste Rodin’s bronze Brother & Sister sold to a European collector for €928,250 ($1.5 million), ten times the estimate.