Christie’s Paris. Latest market trends

[11 Dec 2018]

In the insurrectional context that has affected the French capital in recent weeks, Christie’s exhibition rooms were closed the weekend before their Contemporary Art sales on 4 and 5 December. However the results of the sales were generally positive.

Christie’s is not afraid of dense sales: on 4 and 5 December it offered a decidedly international selection of more than 250 Contemporary art works that generated a total of 24 million euros. The evening sale on December 4 worked well generating €15.2 million with just two works unsold and 7-digit results for the great abstract painters Pierre Soulages and Zao Wou ki. The following day Christie’s offered over 220 lots generating 8.4 million euros and proving that Paris has firmly established itself as an international marketplace. The signatures on offer were every bit as diverse as in a London sale, with the British artist Tacita Dean on the catalogue’s cover and works by the great Italian artists Alighiero Boetti, Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, the Brazilian artist Gabriel Orozco, the American artists Marc Quinn, Sam Gilliam and Peter Halley, the Belgian artists Wim Delvoye and Hans Op de Beeck, and the Spanish artist Manolo VALDÉS, whose oil-on-hessianLa fortuna (Rubens como Pretexto) generated one of the best results of the day sale at 125,000 euros ($142,000).

Among the disappointments… a masterpiece by Hans Hartung and a work by Giuseppe Penone both failed to sell, while the work with the day sale’s highest estimate (250,000 euros) suffered the same fate: a superb ‘materialist’ canvas by Antoni Tapiès painted in 1985 (Contorn Negre sobre fusta). However, the sale’s positive results provided some strong trend indicators with Christie’s obtaining good prices for German and Swiss artists. One of the day sale’s best results rewarded a two-meter tondo by Katharina GROSSE that fetched 115,000 euros. Several drawings by Georg Baselitz sold well, including Head with Glass, at double its estimate (40,000 euros). But, above all, Christie’s has just signed a new auction record for the Swiss artist Markus RAETZ with Hasenspiegel – a mirror and wire sculpture – driving the bidding to €340,000 ($385,000), four times its high estimate. The followed day, another work Moulage (1/6) by Markus Raetz fetched an even more explosive result at 295,500 euros, versus a pre-sale estimate of 40,000 – 60,000 euros.

The sale included more affordable works by other leading Swiss and German Contemporary artists, including a small (12.5 x 17.5 cm) oil painting by Gerhard Richter titled 27.9.94. that fetched 37,500 euros, a bronze sculpture (Stehender Nackter Mann) by Stephan Balkenhol that fetched 5,000 euros and a two-meter drawing – Linien 8 – by Silvia BÄCHLI, laureate of the 2007 Contemporary drawing prize from the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation, that sold for just under 14,000 euros. In addition to a resolutely international offer, the other advantage of Parisian sales is the affordability of works by well-established and recognised artists.

The French Scene

As regards French artists, Pierre Soulages generated the best results of these sales with two paintings respectively sold for 2.1 and 1.3 million euros. Representatives of the Free Figuration and Narrative Figuration movements also elicited strong bidding: several works by Robert COMBASwhose price index has increased 480% since 2000 – fetched close to their high estimates, while two paintings by François Boisrond exceeded their estimates by 10,000 euros. Confirming this trend, a painting by Erro (Looney Tunes) was acquired for 15,000 euros against an estimate of 12,000 euros. There were also works by Martial Raysse, Ben, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, César, Arman and particularly by François MORELLET, whose price rating is very dynamic indeed (+1,150% since 2000), and Christian Boltanski, an artist whose prices still don’t match the density and recognition of his work. Boltanski’s prices have never crossed the 100,000 euros threshold in France. French collectors buy international artists and boast diversified collections, but they do not always support their compatriots to the level they deserve. A work by Annette Messager was also bought in last week…