Art: 2021, a record year for auction houses

Patrick Drahi has to rub his hands. Sotheby’s, the auction house that the Franco-Israeli businessman bought in 2019, has gained the upper hand in the Parisian market, with a record balance sheet of nearly 500 million euros in 2021, including 424 million for public sales. To his credit, several mannes: the set of sculptures by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne sold by their daughter, which alone represents nearly 20% of his balance sheet, like the estate of the couturier Karl Lagerfeld, whose two parts are scattered. in Monaco and Paris have garnered more than 18 million euros. Sotheby’s has even achieved the unthinkable, namely to instigate Christie’s with the sale of the Hospices de Beaune, over which it had had a monopoly for fifteen years.

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The team of François Pinault nevertheless ended the year neck and neck, with 420.7 million euros for public sales and an increase of 88% compared to 2020. « This is our best year since the Bergé-Saint Laurent sale in 2009 », welcomes Cécile Verdier, President of Christie’s France. His prize list includes the wonderful collection of African art by Michel Périnet, auctioned for 66 million euros in June.

Growth is much more modest at Artcurial, which ends the season with 169 million euros, an increase of 13%. « We lost 30 million to 40 million euros because of the cancellation of Rétromobile in February and of Le Mans Classique following the pandemic », justifies its CEO, Nicolas Orlowski.


Behind the behemoths, all auction houses are posting double-digit growth. So Aguttes, who, with 77.2 million euros, won his best result since … 1974. « I really didn’t think I could achieve such a score so quickly », is surprised for his part Alexandre Millon, who totals 81.7 million euros, including 6 million in his subsidiary in Belgium. Tajan aligns, for its part, 46.2 million euros, almost double the 2020, while Piasa earns 43 million euros, up 65%. Ader, finally, continues its momentum, with a record balance of 40 million.

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The Parisian potential is such that the British house Bonhams has set up its European headquarters in the French capital. Specializing in an intermediate range of objects from 1000 to 1 million euros, the establishment owned by the investment fund Epiris, usually only organized an annual sale of vintage cars. There was a boost in 2021 with nineteen shifts, in various specialties, which totaled 22 million euros. « Our goal is to organize around thirty in 2022 », specifies its managing director, Patrick Masson.

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