Paris celebrates drawing

[21 Mar 2023]

This week the French capital hosts its traditional week of fairs and exhibitions dedicated to the art of drawing and all forms of artistic creation on paper. The events include the Salon du Dessin at the Palais Brongniart and the Drawing Now Art Fair and several auction sales.


The action will start at the Palais Brongniart with the opening of a drawing fair whose principal advantage is its artistic and temporal diversity and its policy of giving exhibitors complete freedom as regards their presentations. After three years of postponements due to the COVID crisis, the Salon du Dessin (SdD) will present more than 1,000 drawings at the Palais Brongniart from March 22 to 27. The timing of this fair is favorable for attracting foreign curators and collectors, especially Americans, to Paris, some of whom have not been back to Europe for several years. This edition of the fair therefore has a somewhat springtime-renaissance air about it. The event is also partnered with another fair, Drawing Now (73 galleries and nearly 2,000 works, from March 23 to 26, at the Carreau du Temple), whose more contemporary offer complements the more historic focus of the SdD.


A relatively small event, for its 31st edition, the Salon du Dessin will be hosting 39 exhibitors of whom 18 are from outside France and 9 are joining the event for the first time. Now operating an all-inclusive policy the SdD will be presenting high-quality works from all periods – Old, Modern and Contemporary – selected by some of the most prestigious dealers in the profession. For example, the Nathalie Motte Masselink gallery, whose clients include major museums and informed collectors, will be offering a study by GUERCINO (1591-1666) (see image) illustrating how much he was influenced by Raphaël during his stay in Rome (1621-1628), and whose provenance is quite impressive since it has been traced to the artist’s studio.


The Guerlain Foundation Drawing Prize, dedicated to Outsider Art

Long-time partners, Daniel and Florence Guerlain, collectors and founders of the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Contemporary Drawing Prize, will present the drawing prize on March 23 at the Palais Brongniart. The names of the three finalists for this 16th edition of the Drawing Prize were revealed last December. They are Pascal Leyder (born in 1988 in Bastogne), Mehrdad Rashidi (born in 1963 in Sari, Iran) and Melvin Way (born in 1954 in South Carolina), three artists related to Outsider Art, whose works have already joined leading institutions such as the Lausanne Collection of Art Brut. In addition to the financial endowments, a work by the winner will be offered by the Guerlain Foundation to a French museum.

Pascal Leyder, Untitled, mixed-technique on paper, 40 x 53 cm. Courtesy Escale Nomade, Paris


Likely to elicit strong bidding…

As usual, several Parisian auction houses will use this key period to host sales dedicated to drawings. This year, Ader is hosting three sessions between March 20 and 24 offering works ranging from some handsome Old, but unattributed, drawings for a few hundred euros to more precious works by Antoine Watteau and Jean-Baptiste Pater for prices around 30,000 euros.

Christie’s is also hosting a fine sale of Old and 19th century drawings on March 22, with a child’s head by François BOUCHER (see image) carrying a mid-range estimate of 10,000 euros, a more accomplished domestic scene by the same artist for around 30,000 euros, a fantastic castle by Victor HUGO (for around 50,000 euros), and a study for Leda and the Swan by Théodore GÉRICAULT (for around 5,000 euros). There will also drawings by Daumier, Millet, Isabey, Tiepolo, Greuze and, among the most expensive, a kneeling man by Peter Paul RUBENS (between 250,000 and 350,000 euros) and a gallery in ruins by Hubert ROBERT (between 70,000 and 100,000 euros). Christie’s will not, however, repeat last year’s coup when it sold an original early drawing by MICHELANGELO for $24.3 million, setting a new world record at double the previous one for the Italian Renaissance genius.

In auction turnover terms, drawing is the world’s second most popular artistic medium on the art market after painting, representing 14% of global fine art auction revenue, i.e. $2.2 billion dollars from 21% of the market’s transactions. In concrete terms, some 150,000 drawings duly attributed to artists sold at auction last year, not counting the many works whose precise origin could not be traced. More than half of these drawings were exchanged for less than $1,000, making it a very attractive market segment for collectors. In any case, between the auction rooms and the fairs, collectors will once again find lots of treasures in Paris this week.