Art market in France: the end of the post-covid rebound effect?


Is the French art market losing ground? This is the question we can ask after a sharp decline in French art auction turnover in the first part of this year, compared with the results obtained in the same period last year.

In the semester of 2022, the French art market was boosted by some exceptional works with three memorable masterpieces fetching over $10 million each between March and May:

This year, no such prestige works have boosted the French market. The best result so far in 2023 is still below $5 million dollars, compared with nearly $27 million last year. Looking ahead, the French market is impatiently awaiting the dispersion of Alain Delon’s collection (estimated at around $5 million) as well as the sale of a superb portrait by Amedeo Modigliani of a Burgundian servant girl offered at Giquello (La Bourguignonne, 1918), expected to fetch around $7 million. But despite these upcoming sales, the shortfall compared with last year’s total will still remain considerable.

Top three auction results in France from 1 January to 31 May 2023:


Sharp turnover contractions at some of the major auction houses versus last year (1 January – 15 May 2022)

Comparing the first five months of 2022 with the first five months of 2023, we see that transaction volumes have fluctuated to varying degrees among the different operators. The number of artworks sold at Sotheby’s France is stable, while that of Christie’s France contracted 38% and that of Aguttes fell by 58%. Millon & Associés have significantly upped its sales rate with a 25% increase in lots sold between 1 January and 15 May 2023 vs. the same period in 2022.

But if we look at their revenue, we see the major auction houses have suffered a significant drop in their French auction turnover this year. The leading French auction company, Artcurial, is down 68% vs. last year and the British firm Christie’s (controlled by the Artémis holding company of the art collector François Pinault) is down 38% and its biggest competitor, the American company Sotheby’s (led by Patrick Drahi, CEO of the Altice group, one of the main French players in telecoms and media), is down 39,8%.


Art Market Confidence Index by Artprice; Opinion on the current financial situation

These underperformances look more like the level of activity before the frenzy of 2021, when, after the long restrictions linked to the health crisis, all the results turned out to be very favorable to auction houses.

The post-covid rebound effect already seems far behind, swept away by an uncertain economic context (war, inflation, falling indicators and a decline in property sales, etc.) that may well be dampening purchase intentions. But although our AMCI (Artprice’s art market confidence index for art market professionals) clearly illustrates the growing concern of respondents about the financial situation over the past year, intentions to purchase artworks remain strong: the desire to collect art is still there… even in these troubled times.


Art auction turnover figures for the top auction operator in France from 1 January to 15 May (2022 vs 2023)