French Top 10

[13 Oct 2017]

It’s Top 10 Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. Today, we return to the strong results obtained by the French art market since the beginning of 2017.

Due to a hyper-competitive market and a globalized demand, France remains in a superb position in the art auction segment. Its art heritage, which is among the richest and most historical in the world, coupled with a tradition of patronage and collecting, makes it a key and highly qualitative marketplace, although many national masterpieces leave the country to be sold in the auction houses of London or New York.

Since the beginning of 2017, some 15 major works have passed the $2m mark in French auction rooms, a success that proves the quality of the information network throughout the country, as well as the real appeal French catalogues have with foreign art collectors. With the lowest entry at $2.86m and the highest at $7.12m for a work by Francesco Guardi – the best Old Master result in France over the last 20 years – the Top 10 results in France are much higher than in Germany (Top 10 ranging from $505,000 to $1.68 million maximum), Italy (Top 10 ranging from $665,000 to $1.71 million maximum) and Belgium (Top 10 ranging from $160,000 to $846,000 maximum).

Rank Artist Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Francesco GUARDI (1712-1793) 7 127 985 La place Saint-Marc avec la basilique et le campanile 03/07/2017 Christie’s Paris
2 Pierre SOULAGES (1919) 6 885 000 Peinture 162 x 130 cm, 14 avril 1962 06/06/2017 Sotheby’s Paris
3 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 4 740 891 Plage et falaises de Pourville 06/21/2017 Pierre Bergé & Associés Paris
4 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 4 409 751 Table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 03/06/2017 Christie’s Paris
5 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 4 100 625 19.03.62 06/06/2017 Sotheby’s Paris
6 Auguste RODIN (1840-1917) 4 099 326 Andromède 05/30/2017 Artcurial (S.V.V.) Paris
7 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 3 994 467 Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 03/06/2017 Christie’s Paris
8 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 3 571 042 Nymphéas 06/28/2017 Tajan Paris
9 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 3 460 529 Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 03/06/2017 Christie’s Paris
10 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 2 867 265 Arbres de vie ou arbres à l’oiseau et à l’escargot 03/06/2017 Christie’s Paris
copyright © 2017

This French Top 10 features three new record sales for works by Pierre Soulages, Francesco Guardi and Diego Giacometti, who alone holds four places in this ranking, thanks to his overwhelming success at the sale of the famous couturier Hubert de Givenchy’s collection (Christie’s, 6 March 100% success rate). Giacometti’s Table with Caryatids and Atlantes indeed sold for the equivalent of $4.4 million, creating the new French record for the artist at auction; his absolute record being held since 16 May by the sale of a corner library for $6,312,500 at Sotheby’s in New York. Diego Giacometti’s new French record is all the more remarkable as it beats by nearly one million the French record of his brother Alberto, usually much more highly regarded. The remarkable results of the Givenchy sale enable Christie’s to obtain four of the 10 best sales of the year. With their sale of La Place Saint-Marc avec la basilique et le campanile by Guardi, Christie’s holds half of the Top 10 places in France, ahead of Sotheby’s (two sales), Pierre Bergé & Associés, Artcurial and Tajan.

2017 also was also the year of 20th century French Abstraction, with two abstract paintings in the Top 10, with high prices paid for Pierre Soulages and Zao Wou Ki. Pierre Soulages, the Master of Black, confirmed the rise of his reputation on 6 June at Sotheby’s in Paris, recording a new world record at €6.2 million (nearly $6.9m), double the high estimate, for a majestic blue 1962 canvas, which failed to reach its estimate last year at Phillips in London (February 9th, 2016). The fact that Pierre Soulages, whose works are in high demand worldwide, obtained his record on French soil for more than €6 million demonstrates the robustness and appeal of the French market compared to the competition, notably London.

The sale of June 6th also marked a nice double for Sotheby’s, which sold another abstract work created the same year as the blue Soulages: a powerful canvas by Zao Wou Ki sold for €3.64m ($4.1m), i.e. double its low estimate. A real star of the Chinese and French markets, Zao has seen the price of his works rise by 833% since 2000. This phenomenal success is mostly due to Asian collectors (63% of Zao’s sales took place in Hong Kong, nearly 11% in Taiwan and 9% in Mainland China), not to mention enthusiastic demand throughout Europe and the United States.

Auguste Rodin and Claude Monet complete this ranking, as Rodin’s Andromeda marble ($4.99m) and Plage et falaises de Pourville ($4.74m) are the third best auction result obtained by these artists in France.

This ranking reveals the vitality and the unique appeal of the French market, whose first asset is Modern art (49% of total sales), compared with 14% for 19th century art and 27% for Contemporary and Abstract art, as well as high performance segments such as comic book illustration and African art, whose prices are rising sharply.