Top Auctions in France: first sales this year


Discover the best sales every Friday! Every other Friday, Artprice posts a theme-based auction ranking. We can see this week which artists have been a success in the French auction rooms through the ranking of 10 contemporary artists who have made their first sales this year.

Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Kay QUATTROCCHI (1957) $82 951 Le createur des mondes 2016-04-06 CORNETTE DE SAINT CYR PARIS
2 Sung-Pil CHAE (1972) $48 400 Originel (130906) 2016-04-06 Boisgirard – Antonini PARIS
3 CHEVALIER Li (1961) $26 387 Vide de l’autre 2016-04-06 CORNETTE DE SAINT CYR PARIS
4 Isabell BEYEL (1968) $23 279 Intentions 2016-04-10 Digard Auction PARIS
5 MAXB (1949) $13 915 La bulle de MaxB 2016-03-16 Le Brech & Associés PARIS
6 Teddy LO (1974) $13 310 Dark Matter 2016-03-22 Millon & Associés SAS PARIS
7 Stefano BOMBARDIERI (1968) $14 550 Il peso del tempo sospeso/rhino 2016-04-10 Digard Auction PARIS
8 Cécile PLAISANCE (1968) $13 884 Nun & baby 2016-03-17 Christie’s PARIS
9 Stéphane HALLEUX (1972) $13 660 «Batman» 2016-06-28 Artus Encheres – D.T.O. S.A.R.L PARIS
10 Ophélie ASCH (1972) $13 513 « Bataille » 2016-06-09 Christie’s PARIS
copyright © 2016

In France, the opening of the second public market shows a great diversity not only in the artists’ careers but in their methods of expression. Celebrating seven foreign artists and three French artists (Cécile Plaisance, Ophélie Asch and MAXB), illustrating a sometimes niche market, the ranking of MAXB showing the interest of the French market in young artists emerging from or inspired by Street art, or that of the Belgian sculptor Stéphane Halleux who has been rewarded for his inventiveness in animation.1 But it also reveals some promising debuts, if there should soon be the same demand on the international scene. The reputation of the French-Chinese artist Li Chevalier (b. 1961) could expand to the Asian market in the next few years, as her work is part of the Experimental Ink artistic movement, currently coveted by Chinese collectors. Some of her works have already been exhibited in China (National Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art in Beijing, Beijing University) but it is in France that the artist first made an impression at auction, one year after her exhibition in the Parisian gallery of Jean-François Cazeau.

Price and average age

Half of these new artists posted results of between $13,000 and $14,000, a very acceptable average price compared to the first sales of artists whose work had already sold in other marketplaces more prominent than Paris. In New York, the average price of artists ranked between fifth and tenth position is around $13,000, slightly lower than the French average. The French market has nothing to be ashamed of compared to London sales either. On the contrary, the average price of the Top 10 in London is just under $24,000 against $27,600 in France. The gap between the US and French markets is only shown on top prices, with a French annual record at almost $83,000 (for Kay Quattrocchi) against the top American price of more than $500,000 (for Barry X Ball represented by the Nathalie Obadia, Louise Alexander, Thaddaeus Ropac and Sperone Westwater galleries).

Regarding the first auction sales of young contemporary artists, one of the major differences between the three marketplaces (Paris, New York, London) remains the artists’ average age, higher in France (50 years old) than anywhere else. The keenest buyers of young artists are in London, the average age in the English Top 10 being 40, as opposed to 46 in the United States.

Artists emerging onto the international scene

Access to the auction world is, as a rule, inseparable from the work carried out upstream by galleries, which provides artists with their first visibility on the international scene, notably by participating in art fairs. This representation outside France is a major challenge to create demand and reassure French collectors.

The German artist Isabell Beyel (b.1968) has been represented at numerous art fairs throughout the world by the Mark Hachem gallery, which has a network of three exhibition spaces (Paris, New York, Beirut). With their support (her work was shown at the very exclusive TEFAF art fair in 2011), Isabell Beyel entered the auction world with a first sale of $23,000 in April 2017, slightly above the high estimate. The same goes for the Korean artist Chae Sung-Pil (b.1972), trained in Seoul and then in France, who is represented by several galleries, including Baudouin Lebon and Maubert, who regularly attend international fairs. Two of his canvases, large colour fields with vegetal influences, were successfully sold this year: one in France for $45,500, the other in Jerusalem for $60,000, his record so far. It is also the case for most artists, with galleries doing their best to represent them at trade shows to broaden demand and reputation. Also ranked in the Top 10, Teddy Lo, 42, based in Hong Kong and New York and specialising in technological art and lighting installations, who has nevertheless managed to build his reputation for the most part by himself. The artist has indeed developed a new visual culture, mixing art, industry, architecture, design and lighting technology through his own company.

Commissions are flooding in from all over the world and the artist receives invitations from major cultural institutions, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (as part of the group exhibition Artistes à la une) in 2015. His first introduction to auction judiciously took place in the months following his exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, with the Dark Matter light installation sold for over $12,000. Future auctions could take place in New York and Hong Kong, strategic base camps to powerfully emerge in the second market.

The artists represented by major French galleries – including Perrotin, Obadia and Kamel Menour – are nowhere to be found in this ranking as it in no way reflects the reality of the major trends of contemporary art in France. Trend-setting galleries show restraint and patience in introducing their protégés to the second French market, preferring to first build their reputation with major art institutions and gradually gather critical acclaim. These galleries prefer to introduce their artists in a timely manner to more international and prestigious markets, favouring London or New York to Paris.

1. Stéphane Halleux is known for having created Mr Hublot, a key figure in a short film awarded the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2014 at the 86th Annual Academy Awards.