The 2017 French Top Ten


Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. Let’s have a look this week at the results in the French art market since the beginning of 2017…

In a ranking clearly dominated by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Pierre Bergé & Associés and Artcurial are doing well and also take a place in the Top 10, their best sales being $4.74 million for Beach and Cliffs at Pourville by Claude Monet and $4.099 million for Andromeda, a marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin. These particularly impressive results are complemented by new auction records obtained on French soil by three artists: Francesco Guardi, Diego Giacometti and Pierre Soulages.

Rank Artist Hammer Price ($) Artwork Sale
1 Francesco GUARDI (1712-1793) 7 127 985 La place Saint-Marc avec la basilique et le campanile 2017-03-07 – Christie’s Paris
2 Pierre SOULAGES (1919) 6 885 000 Peinture 100 x 81 cm, 5 avril 1951 2017-06-06 – Sotheby’s Paris
3 Claude MONET (1840-1926) 4 740 891 Plage et falaises de Pourville 2017-06-21 – Pierre Bergé & Associés S.A.S Paris
4 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 4 409 751 Table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 2017-03-06 – Christie’s Paris
5 ZAO Wou-Ki (1921-2013) 4 100 625 19.03.62 2017-06-06 – Sotheby’s Paris
6 Auguste RODIN (1840-1917) 4 099 326 Andromède 2017-05-30 – Artcurial (S.V.V.) Paris
7 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 3 994 467 Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 2017-03-06 – Christie’s Paris
8 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 3 460 529 Grande table octogonale aux caryatides et atlantes 2017-03-06 – Christie’s Paris
9 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 2 867 265 Arbres de vie ou arbres à l’oiseau et à l’escargot 2017-03-06 – Christie’s Paris
10 Diego GIACOMETTI (1902-1985) 2 807 940 Grande table console aux cerfs 2017-03-06 – Christie’s Paris
copyright © 2017

Diego Giacometti holds half of the Top 10 places

Sales of collections are always popular because, beyond the consistent and high-quality body of work, the name of a great collector adds provenance and prestige to the works concerned. Christie’s auction in Paris on 6 March was devoted to the sale of Hubert de Givenchy’s Giacometti collection, the famous couturier selling twenty two artworks (21 works by Diego and one by his brother, Alberto). This triumphant sale, with a 100% success rate, generated €32,748,500 ($34.5 million), of which $11 million were raised by three Cariatids and Atlantes tables, commissioned from Diego Giacometti by Givenchy for his Jonchet property, around 1980. One of the three tables set the auction alight as it sold for 5 times its high estimate. It was sold for the equivalent of $4.4 million and created the new French record for the artist at auction, his absolute record being held since 16 May for a bookcase sold for $6,312,500 at Sotheby’s New York. The new French record for Diego Giacometti is all the more remarkable as it beats by nearly a million the French record of his brother Alberto, who is usually much more highly rated (the record for an Alberto Giacometti in France is more than $3.4m for a 21.2cm figure sold on 6 June 2013 at Sotheby’s in Paris). And for good reason, as the most important works by Alberto Giacometti are sent to auctions in London or New York, while major pieces by his brother Diego are still sold in France. Diego’s French auction results represent almost 69% of his worldwide sales revenue (since January 2016), compared with just 14.2% for Alberto, of which nearly half of the works are sold in London.

A new record for an Old Master

More than $7.1 million is the new record in France for a work by Guardi entitled St. Mark’s Square with the Basilica and the Campanile. This high price is also the best French result obtained by an Old Master work over the last 20 years. Sold as part of the Boniface de Castellane & Anna Gould collection on 7 March at Christie’s, St. Mark’s Square with the Basilica and the Campanile belonged, during the second half of the 19th century, to the critic and art dealer Léon Gauchez, a friend of Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. The work was then bought by Parisian enthusiasts in 1892, then passed onto the collection of the Viscountess de Courval, then that of the Princesse de Poix, then of Diane de Castellane until the last owners sold it at Christie’s. With perfect provenance coupled with undeniable pictorial qualities in the artist’s mature period, this representation of St Mark’s Square went well beyond the initial predictions (estimate of $4.2-6.3 million). This sale is also the best result obtained by Guardi in the history of auctions in France.

Great success for major Abstract painters

Another French record was broken by Pierre Soulages with a sale that doubled the high estimate at $6.885m for a 1962 canvas with blue accents, for which there was no buyer in London last year… This work was indeed left unsold at Phillips of London on 9 February 2016. The sale of 6 June was a nice double success for Sotheby’s who sold another abstract canvas completed the same year as the Blue Soulages: a powerful painting by Zao Wou Ki sold for $4.1m, double its lower estimate. As a major capital of Post-war abstraction, Paris is obtaining superb results in this booming market segment. Soulages’ success testifies, like that of Zao Wou Ki, to the remarkable vitality and attractiveness of the French market this year. When the quality is on show, million dollar auctions are not reserved for London and New York, especially since the French catalogues seem to really attract foreign buyers.