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A boom in the drawings market

[20 Mar 2006]

 

For the past 15 years, collectors and curators of drawings have met at the Salon du Dessin during the last week of March. The salon that is to be held at the Palais de la Bourse in Paris will bring together some 30 galleries that will exhibit almost 1,000 drawings from all periods.

Auction data in 2005 showed that the drawings segment represented almost 24.4% of total Fine Art transactions and 12.7% of turnover (vs. 11.6% in 2004). Last year, some exceptional pieces went under the hammer. We note in particular a major gouache by Pablo Picasso entitled Nu Jaune (1907) that sold for USD 12.5 million at Sotheby’s on 2 November after an estimation of USD 3-4 million. The highest bid in the Old Masters drawings segment was for a work by Andrea Del Sarto depicting the head of Saint Joseph, a study for the painting The Holy Family hanging at the Pitti Palace that was bought by Jean-Luc Baroni for GBP 5.8 million on 5 July 2005.

The drawings segment is experiencing a boom and posted the sharpest price rises in 2005 of all Fine Art categories. Expressed in euros, prices rose by on average 14.6% in 2005 vs. 9% for paintings and 8.1% for sculpture. Despite this growth, the bought-in ratio still remained high at around 35%. Demanding collectors do not hesitate to rebuff badly-conserved drawings or unappealing sketches. trait.

Beyond this overall rise, late-19th century art movements have achieved astonishing levels of growth.
Impressionist artists that command lower prices than the leaders (Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro) have also enjoyed spectacular price rises. The value of works by Albert Lebourg and Armand Guillaumin gained from the scarcity of the market for impressionist works by 60% and 65% respectively in 2005. However, it is still possible to find small-format coloured sketches by these two artists for less than EUR 1,000. For example, Bord de mer au soleil by Guillaumin found a buyer at EUR 450 at Martin-Chausselat, Versailles in March 2005. And on 14 August, La bouille, a small watercolour by Lebourg was knocked down at EUR 600 at Massol, Deauville.
Shored up by some top exhibitions including “Drawings by Georges Seurat and neo-impressionist artists” at the Musée d’Orsay, prices for post-impressionist works have risen by on average 34.8% and even by 70% for drawings by Théo Van Rysselberghe. For example, a watercolour entitled Veere (Holland) (1906) fetched EUR 22,000 at Christie’s Paris on 12 December, compared with its estimation of EUR 4,000 – 6,000. Another surprise in 2005 was Henri Manguin whose index tripled in twelve months! A watercolour of Saint-Tropez fetched EUR 9,000 at Sotheby’s Olympia in July 2005, five years after selling for EUR 3,300 at Anaf, Lyon in 2000. Works by the artist Pierre Eugène Montézin – who was inspired by Claude Monet – gained 163% in value between 2000 and 2005.
But the artist who posted the most impressive rise was Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, who was influenced by the Symbolism movement. His works on paper rocketed by on average 454% in only one year! Already in 2002, his pastel Hélène (53 x 42 cm) sold for EUR 91,500, i.e. almost 10 times its low estimate! In December 2005, another pastel entitled Repas de femmes was knocked down in Casablanca at EUR 125,656, thereby doubling estimates and setting a record price for the artist.

Price escalation is not confined to drawings from the major art movements of the late 19th century. A number of works by modern artists attracted high bids last year.
One of the most spectacular price rises was for works by Jean Lambert-Rucki that gained on average 454% in value in only one year! Lambert-Rucki was a friend of Moïse Kisling and Modigliani, and his 1920s drawings that were inspired by Fernand Léger’s “Tubism” were a huge success at auction. For instance, Pigalle, a 1924 gouache sold for EUR 4,300 at Courtois-Chauviré on 13 December, doubling its estimations.
Roger de la Fesnaye, who died in 1925 at the young age of 40, and whose works had been somewhat overlooked by collectors since the beginning of the 1990s, has also made a strong comeback. For both his fauvist and cubist works, his price index jumped 200% in 2005! To illustrate this enthusiasm, Homme assis pensif aux mains croisées sous le menton, a 1920 lead pencil drawing, sold for EUR 7,800 on 25 March 2005 at Mathia-Million-Robert, Paris (vs. an estimation of EUR 3,000 – 4,000).
A large number of artists’ drawings gained at least 50% in value in 2005. Among the most well-known are Jean Hélion whose works appreciated following a retrospective at the MNAM. Le Corbusier, Jacques Doucet, Augusto Giacometti, André Masson and Jean Pougny are also a part of this trend.

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