Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Both firms have bombarded the Culture Ministry with in-depth proposals designed to liberalise auction regulations and beef up France’s international competitiveness.

The proposals have been addressed to a Culture Ministry work party set up under FIAC boss Martin Bethenod following President Nicolas Sarkozy’s stated ambition to see Paris restored to the forefront of the global auction scene.

France’s auction regulations, in any case, need modifying to bring them into line with the new European Union ‘Bolkestein’ Services Directive. But the Bethenod Commission, due to report by Easter, is expected to call for a major revamp to the tepid 2000 auction reform that allowed foreign firms to sell in France, but ensnared auctions in tax and red tape.

Sarkozy, as usual, is in a hurry. He wants the Services Directive implemented by the time France assumes the EU Presidency on July 1.

“All this couldn’t come at a better time,” commented François Curiel, head of Christie’s France. “There’s terrific momentum for change.”

By Simon Hewitt