Whether Old Masters or contemporary works, the spotlight was firmly trained on the world of works on paper, with a whole calendar of dedicated fairs, auctions and exhibitions getting under way in the French capital under the umbrella title of the Semaine du Dessin.
The opening of the 24th edition of the Salon du Dessin in the former Bourse (Stock Exchange) building on March 24 counts as the kick-starter for many of the serious collectors in this field. This long-established event is a hub around which a growing concentration of specialist drawings sales circulate and the following day saw a flurry of activity in the Drouot auction centre and the independent rooms that continued for much of the week.
Afficionados of contemporary art do not miss out. From March 25, over 70 galleries from round the world set out their stands in a converted market building known as the Carreau du Temple with a varied display of works on paper for a five-day salon, titled Drawing Now.
Salon du Dessin
The Salon du Dessin's private view was packed from the moment the doors opened to the queue of enthusiastic private collectors, scholars, curators and other professionals who make a bee-line for this event to see what the 39 dealers from round the world have brought to the Palais Brogniart.
But alongside the crush, the champagne and the canapés, serious business was being done. Red 'sold' stickers sprouted on many stands as sought-after drawings were snapped up. Among them was the charcoal drawing of two dancers by Edgar Degas (priced at €125,000) pictured here, which London dealer Stephen Ongpin Fine Art sold within half an hour of the fair's opening.
Christie's staged three specialist drawings sales, two of which featured noted single-owner properties and ran in a five-hour back-to-back double auction on March 25. First off was their 201-lot afternoon sale of Old Master and 19th century drawings, boosted by a 92-lot, third instalment from the collection of the art historian and curator I Q Van Regteren Altena.
With a full attendance of dealers and private collectors, several of whom came hot-foot from the Salon du Dessin, plus the usual absentee bidding, this produced a handful of high prices for top drawings. Aided by some low estimates and, in some cases, no reserves, it chalked up an 87% selling rate by volume and a €2.3m (£1.8m) hammer total.
But these statistics were put in the shade by their 49-lot evening sale of modern works on paper from The Triton Collection Foundation which fired up the room and an international roster of phone and online bidders.
Constant competition from all these quarters resulted in a white-glove sell-out of over €8.1m (£6.25m) and a red-letter day for top-flight classic modern drawings.
Plenty of lots outpaced their estimates but none more than Camille Pissarro's gouache of peasant women working in the fields at Pontoise. Two phones battled it out, joined by a bidder in the room taking instructions via their own phone. The final price of €1.15m (£884,615) was almost four times the €250,000-350,000 estimate.
Christie's followed up the next day with another 81 lots of mixed-owner modern works on paper which was 90% sold by volume to net €5.2m (£4m), bringing a hammer total for the three auctions of €15.7m (£12m).
More on the other drawings sales and fairs will appear in a future issue of ATG's weekly print publication.