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How does the French contemporary art market measure up today? [07/01/2003]

Since it reformed its auctioneers, France has increased its share of the auction market from 7% of worldwide turnover in 2001, to 8.6% in 2002. Yet growth in the wider sector has done little for the contemporary art market. France only generated 4.5% of the proceeds from contemporary artworks in 2002.

Despite an increase in contemporary art sales in France, together with rising prices, profits are still not particularly good. The most expensive work sold in France – L.F. by the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat – went for EUR219,000 at Digard’s. This is a far cry from the prices being paid at the big contemporary art events in New York or London.
The most prestigious French auction houses in the segment are Cornette de Saint-Cyr, Tajan and Artcurial-Poulain-Le Fur, none of which can compete with the UK and the US today, particularly when 44% of the contemporary artists’ lots put up for auction in France fail to find a buyer. This compares to 37.4% in the art market in general and just 30% for contemporary art works offered in the US last year. While the proceeds of all French auctions rose between 2001 and 2002, turnover for contemporary artworks fell by 16%. (read more)

2002 French market: The Top 50 most expensive contemporary artists

Artists born after 1940: ranking by highest hammer price at French auction between 1st January 2002 and 31th December 2002

Rang

Nationality / Affiliation

Artist

Work

Sale

Medium

1

Jean-Michel BASQUIAT

EUR 219.000 : «L.F.» (1984)
19/06/2002 (Paris, Digard)

2

Alighiero BOETTI

EUR 60.000 : «Udire tra le parole» (1980)
29/05/2002 (Paris, Tajan)

3

Andreas GURSKY

EUR 49.000 : «Autobahn Mettmann» (1993)
29/05/2002 (Paris, Tajan)

4

Joseph KOSUTH

EUR 45.000 : One and three Plants (1965)
28/09/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

5

Ghada AMER

EUR 39.000 : Sans titre (1993)
04/06/2002 (Paris, Artcurial-Briest)

6

Franz WESTHeimo ZOBERNIG

EUR 33.000 : Autosex (1996)
19/06/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

7

Bertrand LAVIER

EUR 30.585 : Peinture (1983)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

8

George CONDO

EUR 30.000 : Sans titre (1985)
19/06/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

9

Robert COMBAS

EUR 29.605 : La sérénade
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

10

Jean-Marc BUSTAMANTE

EUR 28.000 : Tableau No.32 (1980)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

11

Mariko MORI

EUR 24.000 : Initiation (1993)
11/12/2002 (Paris, Artcurial)

12

Martin KIPPENBERGER

EUR 22 745 : Grenouille crucifiée (1990)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

13

Jean Pierre PINCEMIN

EUR 21.000 : Sans titre (1993)
11/12/2002 (Paris, Artcurial)

14

James BROWN

EUR 19.000 : San Cosme (1982)
04/02/2002 (Paris, Robin-Fattori-Poulain Le Fur)

15

François BOUCHEIX

EUR 19.000 : La traversée de la mer
10/03/2002 (Rambouillet, Faure-Rey)

16

José María SICILIA

EUR 18.330 : Quadros mont-tonneare (1997)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

17

Pei-Ming YAN

EUR 17.840 : «L'homme le plus sourd» (le père de l'artiste) (1996)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

18

Lisa RUYTER

EUR 16.000 : «White palace» (2000)
04/06/2002 (Paris, Artcurial-Briest)

19

Olivier MOSSET

EUR 15.880 : Rond (1970)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

20

Jean-Charles BLAIS

EUR 15.000 : Sans titre (1984)
11/12/2002 (Paris, Artcurial)

21

Peter & David FISCHLI & WEISS

EUR 15.000 : Los Angeles Fed Ex (1990)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

22

Thomas STRUTH

EUR 15.000 : Jaingxi Zhong Lu, Shangai (1996-1997)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

23

Hiroshi SUGIMOTO

EUR 15.000 : Black Sea, Ozuluce (1991)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

24

Louis CANE

EUR 13.500 : Vénus parisienne (1995)
18/03/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

25

Vik MUNIZ

EUR 13.000 : Team (1998)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

26

Guy FERRER

EUR 13.000 : Slave (Icarus) (2002)
21/09/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

27

Czeslaw ZUBER

EUR 13.000 : «Tête an 2000» (1999)
24/11/2002 (Paris, Chochon-Barré-Allardi)

28

Tony OURSLER

EUR 12.000 : Western Eye (1997)
19/06/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

29

Yasumasa MORIMURA

EUR 12.000 : «To my Little Sister for Cindy Sherman» (1998)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

30

Sam TAYLOR-WOOD

EUR 12.000 : «Gesture towards Action Painting #1» (1991)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

31

Nobuyoshi ARAKI

EUR 11.500 : Sans titre (1998)
18/03/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

32

Bernar VENET

EUR 11.020 : Ligne indéterminée (1989)
04/06/2002 (Paris, Artcurial-Briest)

33

Yuri Leonidovich KUPER

EUR 11.000 : Boîte et pinceau (1995)
03/07/2002 (Paris, Artcurial-Briest)

34

David MACH

EUR 11.000 : «Bali mask» (c.1992-1994)
04/06/2002 (Paris, Artcurial-Briest)

35

Grégor ROSINSKI

EUR 10.500 : Thorgal, le Maître des montagnes (1989)
01/06/2002 (Paris, Tajan)

36

Keith HARING

EUR 10.500 : Subway Drawing (1982)
27/11/2002 (Paris, Tajan)

37

Jean-Pierre CEYTAIRE

EUR 10.100 : Homme dinant, sifflant
28/04/2002 (Provins, Feletin)

38

Richard TEXIER

EUR 10.100 : «Qui se trompe» (1998)
30/06/2002 (Versailles, Perrin-Royère-Lajeunesse-Vergez Honta)

39

Axel CASSEL

EUR 10.000 : Personnage au bracelet
17/03/2002 (Paris, Digard)

40

Rémy BLANCHARD

EUR 10.000 : Félix Potin (1982)
19/06/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

41

Shirin NESHAT

EUR 10.000 : «Unveiling de Women of Allah» (1993)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

42

Helmut MIDDENDORF

EUR 10.000 : «Unter dem Schirm» (1985)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

43

William WEGMAN

EUR 10.000 : «Eléphant» (1980)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

44

Massimo VITALI

EUR 9.500 : Sea #2 (1999)
16/11/2002 (Paris, Christie's)

45

Pancho QUILICI

EUR 9.500 : «Lieu des apparences cycliques» (2000)
21/09/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

46

Pat ANDREA

EUR 9.000 : Sans titre
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

47

Fabrice HYBER

EUR 9.000 : Fleur de radar
19/06/2002 (Paris, Cornette De Saint-Cyr)

48

GILBERT & GEORGE

EUR 8.800 : The singing Sculpture (1969-1991)
26/10/2002 (Paris, Cornette de Saint-Cyr)

49

Frank THIEL

8.500 : Sdadt (1997-1998)
29/05/2002 (Paris, Tajan)

50

Pascal CHAUVEAU

8.500 : "Connemera" (1997-1998)
17/11/2002 (Versailles, Perrin-Royèe-Lajeunesse)

Even more worryingly, French contemporary artists appear to be losing ground on their own soil. French artists are poorly represented on both the international and domestic stages, with the most expensive French work in 2002 in France a Bertrand Lavier painting that sold for EUR30,000. The previous year it had been Robert Combas’s “Les hommes poissons aideurs de fleurs... » for EUR36,500. Combas has now dropped to 11th in the Top 50 most expensive contemporary French artists, from 8th in 2001.
Still more surprising is that the French artists best known internationally, such as Christian Boltanski and Pierre & Gilles (Turner Prize 1986), did not even make it to the Top 50. Fabrice Hybert, a Lion d’Or winner at the 1997 Venice Biennale ranks only 48th. And yet, at international auctions, these four visual artists are the most expensive French artists born after 1940 (see ArtMarketInsight of 18 June 2002). Some of Christian Boltanski’s mixed media installation such as Monument Odessa, have already reached the EUR100,000 threshold. No contemporary artwork would go for anything like this in France, especially if it was by a French artist. Above EUR15,000, contemporary art collectors seem more interested in the works of Americans (Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joseph Kosuth, George Condo, etc.), Germans (Andreas Gursky, Martin Kippenberger, Thomas Struth) or Japanese artists (Mariko Mori, Hiroshi Sugimoto). In Paris’s auction rooms, only five French artists topped this mark in 2002.

French sales will soon confirm the proliferation of foreign artists in the rankings. Auction catalogues are already showcasing potential new challengers for the next Top 50 – the Japanese Takashi Murakami, whose work was exhibited at the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain for four months in 2002, American Matthew Barney, presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne de Paris until last January, and the Belgian Wim Delvoye, whose work is on show until October 2003 at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Lyon.

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