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04 February 2014

Paris Art Sales Up 

New York and London may be the top Western locales for high-profile auctions of fine art and collectibles, but a record-breaking auction late last year served notice to the art market that Paris is on the rise.

A portrait by the Italian modernist Amedeo Modigliani sold for 6.5 million euros in December, a record price for a painting last year in France. The portrait depicted Roger Dutilleul, a collector and patron of Modigliani’s work. Modigliani died in Paris at age 35 in 1920, a year after he painted the portrait.

Sotheby’s reported contemporary art sales of 44 million euros in France, an all-time high, including a painting by Marc Chagall that sold for 3.6 million euros in a December auction. Arch-rival Christie’s says its art sales in France were 62% higher in 2013 than the previous year.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the trend is that Paris has any catching up to do at all. With museums like the Louvre housing some of the most famous artworks ever created, the city’s status as a center of Western culture is unrivaled.

Yet, the booming trade in fine arts has long been dominated by New York and London. And if their hegemony is slipping, it’s as much due to China’s newfound wealth bringing sales of paintings, sculpture and collectibles to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The question for Paris is whether it can maintain its new-found momentum in a market more competitive than ever before. The fact that the city is a magnet for wealthy Asian visitors can’t hurt.