When we think of Paris, thoughts of the Louvre, Montmarte, and some of the greatest artists of all time spring to mind. So, it should come as no surprise that some of the most impressive artwork go through the best auction houses in the world also live in France. Here, we have the top 9 auction houses in France.
Of all the auction houses based in France, Artcurial is number one. Although it ranks 14th in the world after nine Asian auction houses, the top three big sellers (Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips), and Bonhams, Artcurial is without a doubt, the leader in art selling on French soil.
Between 2018 and 2019, Artcurial sold 663 contemporary works of art totaling $10.9 million. Of course, this doesn’t come close to the global sales of those other international auction houses, but it beat out Sotheby’s France and Christie’s France making it the French crown jewel of auctions.
Some of Artcurial’s most notable lots include Verre et pichet by Pablo Picasso which sold for $1,159,104 and a unique Trapeze “Table Centrale” by Jean Prouve that sold for $1,424,543.
Christie’s International has held auctions in their Paris saleroom since 2001. It is located between the Champs Elysees and the Faubourg Saint Honore in the most prestigious art district in Paris.
Christie’s Paris has held auctions in fields such as African and Oceanic Art, European Ceramics, Books and Manuscripts, Impressionist and Modern Art, Jewelry, Master and 19th0Century Paintings, Wines, and more.
Similar to Christie’s, Sotheby’s is also an international auction house with a saleroom in Paris but it’s been around for a bit longer. Sotheby’s Paris opened 1968 in the city’s elite art district just across from the Champs Elysees in the Galerie Charpentier. It was built during the Second French Empire that was the center of Parisian for more than 40 years and Sotheby’s Paris helps to continue the building’s tradition.
Sotheby’s also has offices throughout France in Lille, Marseille, Montpellier, and Toulouse and beyond the more or less 40 auctions they hold each year in Paris, Sotheby’s Paris also holds exhibitions, lectures, and special cultural events.
Situated near the famous Louvre, Bonhams Paris is in the city’s center in the rue de la Paix. The auction house covers over 50 categories of art and helps to secure Bonhams as a well-respected international auction house.
Bonhams itself was founded in 1793 and is the sole privately owned auction house with global influence and the Paris auction house is a large part of their heritage.
Cornette de Saint-Cyr
Coming in second place among French auction houses, Cornette de Saint-Cyr earned $4.1 million in sales between 2018 and 2019 with an 18% increase in turnover. It was founded in 1973 and the auction house has quickly made its mark on the French art market.
Over the last forty years, its unusual and colorful personality has become an innovative pioneer for art sales, hosting around 60 charitable auctions per year, completing atypical sales (like that of a website), and holding their prestigious collections have helped set Cornette de Saint-Cyr apart.
Tajan was established in 1994 but since 2003 has been transformed after it switched owners. The new owner added a deeper focus on modern and contemporary art and design and some of its most notable lots include Portrait of Wayne Gretzky by Andy Warhol that sold for $422,217 and Une fleur et une figure by Fernand Leger which sold for $734,461.
Located in heart of the 8th District of Paris between the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Grands Boulevards, the Opera Garnier, and the Madeleine, L’Espace Tajan is a former 1920s bank complete with an art deco skylight at the entrance. The auction house is also present in the French Riviera in Nice and Cannes as well as in Bordeaux, Lyon, and Reims.
In the prestigious rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore, Piasa is a French auction house in the heart of Paris. As elegant as it is authentic, Piasa has set itself apart in the art world for its cutting edge selections and regular collaborations with exceptional interior designers.
Near the rue Drouot, which has a strong cultural significance in the French art scene on its own, Piasa was created in 1996 and focuses on interior architecture and design where collectors can discover the art of various genres in an intimate setting.
To round out our list of the top auction houses in France is the Osenat auction house which now has salerooms in Fontainebleau, Paris, and Versailles. Its Versailles location is the most recent addition which opened in September 2019 and is part of its continuing approach toward reinvigorating the classical arts by bringing the Osenat to the city of King Louis XIV.
President Jean-Pierre Osenat specifically hopes to inspire more purchases of antique furniture by bringing the auction house to Versailles and its opening sale featured the work of Jean-Pierre Jouve. As an exciting and innovative auction house, French art circles have certainly taken note.
Hotel Drouot (Auction & Auction Venue)
Drouot was founded in 1852 and is one of the oldest and best-known auction venue in France. It holds 2000 auctions every year in its 74 salerooms. With two locations, one at Hotel Drouot on Rue Drouot and Drouot Montmatre in the 18th District, the Drouot also has an exceptional cafe within the Hotel Drouot auction house called Adjuge.
Overall, the Drouot is absolutely iconic as one of the most important auction venues in the world. It receives almost 4,000 visitors each day and continues to bring vibrancy to the Parisian art community.