French Art Market Forecast

French Art Market News

Presented by:

Manhattan Art Auctions

According to the French institution for auctioneering, The Voluntary Sales Council, which publishes annually a report on activity of French auctions, France ranks 4th place in the world art market. Far away behind USA, China and U.K, France has recorded a steady increase in its fine art sales since 2010. With the new European political field and the emergence in France of infrastructures dedicated to contemporary art, Paris could enhance its influence on the world art market.

A growing market

French art market has been making its way. Increasingly independent from fluctuations of global art market, France became a stable value in constant progression. Recently, world art market suffered two decreases in 2012 and 2016. Despites these slowdowns, France market maintains its course. During the year 2016, world art market presented an important decrease of 11%. On the same time, France market progressed of 5% activities with a total amount of $1.93Bn (1.7Bn€). More generally, for the last 10 years, this market grows on 3.1% average per year. International auction houses located in France take advantage of that positive wave. Christie’s and Sotheby’s has recorded negative results on 2016 in each of the major marketplaces of art as New York, Hong-Kong and London, except on Paris where they both increased their results (8% for Christie’s; 5% for Sotheby’s). The French auction house Artcurial that opened in 2002 is the only one – with the Viennese auction house Dorotheum – to obtain positive results on the whole Europe. The first half of 2017 confirms the solidity of the market with an increase in sales, and especially in contemporary art. From January to June 2017, the top 5 auction houses realized in this department $107M (95M€), excluding fees, which represents 69.8% of the total amount of 2016. The sale organized by Christie’s Paris “Les Giacometti d’Hubert de Givenchy” on 6th March 2017 has reached a new high score of $31.4M, excluding fees, (27,7M€).

French auction house Artcurial at Paris – Located on the famous Champs-Elysées roundabout.

Paris, an increasingly connected art network

For several years, French art market benefits from new art museums as well as the most important auction houses. A series of private museums mostly dedicated to contemporary art is born in Paris. The Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain was built in 1984. Then, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by the architect Franck Gehry, opened in 2014. In 2018, the Fondation Pinault will open at the Bourse de Commerce de Paris as a contemporary art museum. Their common particularity is to be owned by important French companies as Cartier SA, LVMH and Artémis (founded by the billionaire and art collector François Pinault). These private foundations, specializing in temporary viewings, will bring a new artistic influence within Paris and revitalize its art market. With their financial power, they could be serious competitors for public museums. For example, the viewing that exhibited last year the private modern art collection of the Russian Chtchoukine “Icônes de l’art moderne” hosted by the Fondation Louis Vuitton from October 2016 until March 2017 received 1.2M of visitors, which represents the highest frequentation for a Parisian viewing since 1967 with “Toutankhamon et son temps” at the Petit Palais.

Fondation Louis Vuitton – Owned by the billionaire and art collector Bernard Arnault.

Anther connection should be done. These very large financial groups are part of the shareholders of auction houses. LVMH, that supports the Fondation Louis Vuitton, is one of the shareholders of the Livestream auction house Auctionata since 2015. The future owner of the Fondation Pinault, Artémis group, bought Christie’s in 1998. The most influential French auction house Artcurial, that obtained better results than Christie’s France in 2015, is financed by Dassault group. A vast network of art is growing in Paris. All these infrastructures, leaded by very important groups, will allow Paris to expand its art market.

A new European political field

Political changes in European Union could possibly bring major modifications into the art market. In 2016, U.K ranked 3rd place in the world art market with a result of 3.5Bn$ (3.1Bn€). A part of these very positive results is due to the dual skill of London. Indeed, this city has at the same time the most international market of Europe and an access to the free market of the European Union. However, Brexit could change this privileged situation by breaking access to the European free market. Among the bad consequences of Brexit in the British art market, we can note: import and export taxes for works of art; British museums work in partnerships and loan system of works of art with European museum and foreign art collectors, these transfers of works of art will be endangered; lately, exchanges of artistic influences between universities will diminish with the end of the Erasmus program. For sure, these are just assumptions. Nevertheless, a part of the British art market could emigrate in two years to a city integrated into a large market. As we mentioned before, Paris seems ready to host a larger art market. In addition, election of the new French president Emmanuel Macron ensures France to remain within the European Union. According to the French auctioneer Agnès Savart who works at the auction house Artcurial Lyon in France “Brexit has become a selling argument with potential sellers who may hesitate to sell in France or England. It is for the moment a situation in our favor”.

To conclude, French art market is able to welcome new players and extend its influence to the global market. However, an access to free market will not enough to seduce foreign buyers and sellers to come to France. Government must ease its tax laws as the ones in London. A last point, almost all of the artists present on contemporary art sales are born between both world wars. Today, their names are reputed as great signatures. Auction houses located in France should get interest about less reputed artists born after 1960. In this manner, French art market could benefit from a living breath and take a step ahead on global market of contemporary art.

Jimmy Arens-Reuther

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