The FIAC… and its competitors


The FIAC (Paris International Contemporary Art Fair) opens this week with some 70,000 visitors expected. The event attracts art buyers to the French capital from all over the world… and the auction companies have learnt to take full advantage of their presence. Hundreds of artworks will auctioned between 19 and 22 October, i.e., exactly the FIAC’s opening and closing dates.

The week’s sales promise to be both dense and varied, attracting a large crowd of buyers and collectors. The selections of works on offer cover all the major artistic movements over the past century, and beyond, and are clearly calibrated for a wide range of tastes… and a wide range of budgets, from a few hundred euros to several million.

The week’s most anticipated work is a majestic Alberto GIACOMETTI bronze statue measuring just under three metres tall. The piece will be offered at Christie’s as part of its Paris Avant-garde sale on October 19. The estimate for Grande femme II has not been disclosed. Created in 1960, it was cast in 1980-81 in an edition of seven, plus two artist proofs and another for the Maeght Foundation… so 10 pieces in total. On 6 May 2008, another of Giacometti’s standing women – with similar dimensions and from a more limited edition of six pieces – fetched $27.48 million dollars at Christie’s in New York (Grande femme debout II). At the upcoming Christie’s sale on 19 October, Giacometti could therefore generate France’ best auction result of the year.

In addition to this rare work, the week’s highlight is undoubtedly the dispersion of one the best French private collections of Contemporary art, again at Christie’s: the Jean-François and Marie-Aline Prat collection. Over the years, the couple accumulated 200 artworks including pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sigmar Polke, Frank Stella, Yves Klein and Jean Dubuffet. The sale is scheduled over two days, on 20 and 21 October. A third sale at Christie’s will be dedicated to Modern art, with a prices ranging from €2,000 (Cubist compositions by Georges Terzian) to over €500,000 for masterpieces by James Ensor, Pablo Picasso, Henri Laurens and Fernand Léger.

In fact if we look at the catalogues as a whole, there are very few major artists missing from the week’s sales. Sotheby’s has scheduled three sales between 19 and 22 October: Modernité, de Rodin à Soulages (Modern Art, from Rodin to Soulages); a sale dedicated to the Collection Arthur Brandt : Dada, Surréalisme et au-delà (Arthur Brandt Collection, Dada, Surrealism and beyond), and a session of Impressionist & Modern Art featuring major works by Antoine Bourdelle, Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, Marc Chagall, Francis Picabia, Victor Brauner, Gustav Klimt, Paul Gauguin and Réné Magritte, and many more. The Arthur Brandt Collection will no doubt attract the most attention because it includes a number of rare works including an iconic LHOOQ by Marcel DUCHAMP, his famous appropriation of the Mona Lisa… with moustache. From an original edition of 35 (each retouched with gouache), the work is an original-multiple that has already crossed the million-dollar threshold at auctions ($1,205,000 for no. 15/35 on 8 May, 2016 at Christie’s in New York). For this one (25/35), Sotheby’s will start the bidding at less than $500,000 and could well double that figure, since the work is one of the most emblematic icons of the Dada spirit.

In addition to the strong catalogues from the two Anglo-Saxon auction houses, the French auction operators are focusing on less prestigious sales designed to appeal to a much wider audience.

On October 19, Piasa is holding a themed sale dedicated to Haitian Art from 1940 to the present. The firm has partnered with the Port-au-Prince Arts Center to present a broad selection of 95 works by sixty artists. Piasa wants to promote Haitian creation to the forefront of the art market and hopes collectors will be attracted by an opportunity to buy works that are rarely available outside Haiti. Prices range from €1,500 to over €20,000.

On October 20, Estim Nation is holding its “FIAC OFF art contemporain – Art Brut – CoBrA – Pop Art”, with a catalogue containing lots of lithographs by Alechinsky and Karel Appel. The works are being offered for prices ranging from a few hundred euros (for the majority) up to a high estimate of €15,000 for a sculptural work of gold jewelry by Pol BURY (Sphères, pyramide).

The following day (October 21) Digard auction is offering an “Amateur Collection” consisting of 153 artworks and design objects in the pure spirit of the 1960s to 1980s. The works touch on New Realism, Narrative Figuration, Figuration Libre and Pop Art. The sale includes creations by Philippe Huart, François Boisrond, Peter Klasen, Robert Combas, César and Jacques Monory… a majority of small and affordable works by big names, like the small porcelain pumpkins by Yayoi Kusama and a Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons (for which the bidding will start at around €2,000).

Cornette de SaintCyr has adopted a different strategy, targeting the post-FIAC calm to the intense marathon week of sales. Its Contemporary Art sale will be held on October 25 focused on a selection of works from the School of Paris, an acrylic by Jean DUBUFFET (Site avec 3 personnages estimated €180,000 – €250,000), an oil-on-paper by Willem DE KOONING (Untitled €60,000 – €80,000), a Venus and a Blue Monochrome by Yves Klein and a superb blue Concetto Spaziale by Lucio Fontana capable of crossing the million-dollar threshold. The sale will also include a selection of drawings signed by Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as a number of Contemporary artworks by some currently much-in-demand African artists like Moke and Chéri Samba… and a number of Street Art works. In sum… a selection likely to appeal to a wide range of different collectors, and perfectly tuned to the market’s current favourites.