The French salerooms (and French branches of international auction houses) produced their Bilans or annual turnover figures at the end of last year.
Of the three names that traditionally head the list, it was Sotheby’s which topped the bill for the second year running with a figure of €354.6m (including premiums and after-sales but not private sales).
This represents a substantial 41% increase over the €251.4m chalked up in 2018.
Single-owner sales proved to be a key part of Sotheby’s auction success in 2019 according to the latest turnover figures.
As well as singling out some major individual consignments to its Paris rooms, Mario Tavella, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, noted that “2019 was also the year for collections which Sotheby’s has made a speciality in France”.
Significant single-owner sales began in March with the Nahon and Marcel Arland collections. Others included the Schickler-Pourtales collection in May and Marceau Rivière’s African art collection in June, while the autumn/winter season finished with the Lalannes’ personal collection in October and the Ribes group in December which contributed €91.3m and €22.8m respectively to the final tally.
Individual highlights were Kazuo Shiraga’s painting, Tentaisei Soushiko, sold in December for €7.8m*; François-Xavier Lalanne’s Rhinocrétaire bureau which made €5.4m; Marcel Rivière’s Baulé mask that achieved €4.7m and the Susini bronze from the Ribes collection of the Rape of a Sabine Woman that was pre-empted by the Château of Versailles for €4.5m.
Christie’s French operation realised €256.7m (including premiums and after-sales) for 2019, which represented a 9.5% increase over its 2018 figure.
The auction house’s most expensive individual lot was Nicholas de Stael’s Parc des Princes, which sold for €20m in October and established an auction record for the artist.
Artcurial’s sales for 2019 amounted to €203.1m (including premiums but not private sales). The firm’s highest price came from a car sold at Rétromobile in February, in this instance an Alfa Romeo at a premium-inclusive €16.7m. In the realms of fine art, the highest price was for Gauguin’s Te Bourao II, sold for €9.5m in December.
The Drouot auction centre, where 60 French auction firms hold sales, chalked up €372m (including premiums but not private or after-sales) this year compared to €376m for 2018.
The seven individual results that generated €1m plus prices (including premium) featured two Old Master paintings. Ambrosius Brosschaert the Elder’s flowers in a roemer painted on oak panel realised €3.3m in a sale in June held by Binoche et Giquello in association with Fraysse & Associés. Bernardino Luini’s Virgin and Child with Saint George and an Angel Musician was sold by Aguttes in November for €2.3m.
A new discovery was an early-17th century bronze bust of the French statesman Paul Phélypeaux de Ponchartrain attributed to the Florentine sculptor Francesco Bordoni which made €3m at an auction held by De Baecque & Associés in November.
Other individual totals realised by French auction houses included €66m at Aguttes – a 30% increase; €40.8m at Tajan (representing a 10% increase, boosted by the firm’s sale of a painting by Pierre Soulages for €9.6m); and €35m at Ader, representing a 28% increase.
The Ivoire Group, comprising 12 auction firms across the French regions from Rheims in the north to Aix-en-Provence in the south, totalled sales for 2019 of €60m (including premium).
* Individual prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.