French Contemporary Artists


Every fortnight Artprice provides you with a new or updated ranking in its Alternate-Friday Top Series. The theme of today’s TOP article is the 10 best auction results generated by French artists in 2010.

With the 37th edition of the FIAC commencing in 21 October 2010 in the historical centre of Paris, Contemporary art will be very much under the spotlight. This year, out of the 195 galleries from 24 different countries, 73 are French, i.e. 38%. We have therefore decided to compile a ranking of the 10 best auction results for French Contemporary artists since the beginning of the year. The top 10 results were generated by seven artists, all aged under 55.

Top 10: best auctions results in 2010 by contemporary French artists

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Jules DE BALINCOURT $346 633 US World studies II 06/30/2010 (Christie’s London)
2 Jules DE BALINCOURT $260 000 Blind Faith and Tunnel Vision 05/12/2010 (Christie’s New-York)
3 Robert COMBAS $113 415 Les amoureux des bancs publics 04/27/2010 (Pierre Berge Bruxelles)
4 Jean-Michel OTHONIEL $110 000 Double collier blanc 06/27/2010 (Wright Auction)
5 Philippe PASQUA $109 410 Marie 02/12/2010 (Phillips de Pury London)
6 Philippe PASQUA $102 741 Isabelle et Simon 04/27/2010 (Pierre Berge Bruxelles)
7 MR BRAINWASH $100 000 Charlie Chaplin Pink 05/14/2010 (Phillips de Pury New-York)
8 Xavier VEILHAN $95 000 Renaud 06/24/2010 (Wright Auction Chicago)
9 PIERRE & GILLES $93 902 Calígula (Baptiste) 02/23/2010 (Casa de Subastas… Madrid)
10 Philippe PASQUA $76 199 Sans titre (2004) 04/13/2010 (Cornette de St Syr Paris)

In first and second place of the ranking is a French artist living in the United States. Jules DE BALINCOURTmade a startling auction debut in 2007 with a result of $28,000 (Christie’s NY). This year, he has set two new personal auction records that have beaten all the other results by French Contemporary artists. Us World studies II and Blind Blind Faith and Tunnel Vision, two oils on wood panel created in 2005, sold at exceptional prices far in excess of their pre-sale estimates: the first fetched £230,000 ($346,633) at Christie’s in London (more than six times its low estimate) and the second fetched ten thousand dollars more than its high estimate when it sold for $260,000 at Christie’s in New York. This young artist of 38, born in Paris and working in Brooklyn, has already had exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, at the PS1 and at the MoMA.
Jules de Balincourt will be represented at this year’s FIAC by the galleries Monica de Cardenas and Thaddaeus Ropac.
As yet, none of his works have sold in France; his market is so far limited to the USA and the UK which account for respectively 65% and 35% of his works sold.

Robert COMBAS is third in this ranking for a work with a title taken from a Georges Brassens song: Les amoureux des bancs publics that fetched €85,000 ($113,415). This acrylic work, estimated by Pierre Bergé & Associés in Brussels at €50,000 – 70,000 in April 2010, has set a new personal auction record for Robert Combas. The same work fetched €56,000 in 2006.
As Combas is a prolific artist, buyers have become extremely selective (between 2008 and 2009, 46% of his lots remained unsold. Although some of his auction lots fetch over $50,000, generally speaking, his work is relatively affordable. In fact 80% of his lots sell for under $10,000.
With 92% of his auction revenue is generated in France from 93% of his total lots sold, his market is almost exclusively French.

In 4th position is Jean-Michel OTHONIEL with his Murano glass installation entitled Double collier blanc which fetched $110,000 at Wright Auction, Chicago in June 2010. This set a new record for the French artist beating his previous auction record by nearly $100,000. Moreover, it was his first auction lot to sell outside France.
Born in St Etienne, Othoniel has already set up numerous installations all over the world, including hanging giant collars in the gardens of the Villa Médicis and in the Venetian garden of the Peggy Guggenheim collection. He will be represented at the this year’s FIAC by the Karsten Greve and Emmanuel Perrotin galleries.

In 5th, 6th and 10th position of this ranking is Philippe PASQUA whose works have so far generated twelve auction results this year, ranging from $7,000 to $110,000. The best of these was for a painting entitled Marie which fetched his new auction record at £70,000 (109 410$) on 12 February 2010 at Phillips de Pury & Company in London. The second best was a 2m by 4m painting entitled Isabelle et Simon which sold for €77,000 ($102,741) at Pierre Berge & Associés in Brussels. The third best was an untitled portrait of a man painted in 2004 which fetched twice its low estimate (€56,000 or $76,199) at Cornette de Saint Cyr in Paris.
Very popular with galleries all over the world, his presence in foreign sales is still limited: more than 88% of his transactions are recorded in France.

The last result above the $100,000 threshold in this ranking belongs to Thierry Guetta (better known as “Mr MR BRAINWASH”) whose Charlie Chaplin Pink sold on 14 May 2010 at the Contemporary Art including the Halsey Minor Collection sale organised by Phillips de Pury, NY. This result represents a stunning auction debut for Mr Brainwash as Charlie Chaplin Pink was his first and only painting ever to sell at a public auction. Of his three others works presented for sale, only a print (Star Wars Reunion) has sold… for $900.
Famous in the United States for a large-scale exhibition (3,000m²) entitled Life is beautiful in Los Angeles and for having created an album cover for Madonna, he is also the central figure of a film called Exit through the gift shop produced by BANKSY.

Xavier VEILHAN takes 8th place in our ranking with a wooden sculpture entitled Renaud that fetched $95,000 at Wright Auction in June 2010. On the back of this result (more than twice the work’s high pre-sale estimate), Xavier Veilhan has gained a substantial advance on his previous record of €30,000 ($40,209) for Le mobile in 2007. Of his 25 lots offered in Paris auctions, only ten found buyers.
Originally from Lyon, Veilhan has a prestigious artistic CV: numerous exhibitions worldwide, public commissions in France, an exhibition at Versailles in 2009… and he will soon be adding his participation in the FIAC via the GDM and Emmanuel Perrotin galleries .

The French artistic duo, PIERRE & GILLES (photographer Pierre Commoy and painter Gilles Blanchard) will be represented at the FIAC 2010 by the Jérôme de Noirmont gallery.
In 9th place of our ranking with the photo Calígula (Baptiste) that fetched €69,000 ($93,902) (est. €75,000 – 95,000) on 23 February 2010 at Casa de Subastas Odalys S.L.U., Madrid, the duo is not far from returning to 6-figure dollar results. In fact, they first passed the $100,000 threshold in 2003 with La Madone au coeur blessé, Lio ($170,000 at Phillips de Pury, NY).
Since 1997, photography represents 98% of their auction revenue. Although Pierre & Gilles generate 44% of the auction sales revenue in the United States from 32% of their lots sold, France represents the largest share of their transactions (38%) generating 26% of their total auction revenue.

Apart from Robert Combas, the top-selling French Contemporary artists are those who have managed to export their creations abroad.