Luxury Jewellery, Watches and Hermès Bags auctioned under the hammer of
François Tajan, Deputy Chairman Artcurial
© Sidney Guillemin
Article by Roxana Florina Popa
Paris is the only world métropole where Christie’s and Sotheby’s have a competitor: ARTCURIAL. All three do almost the same annual turnover in Paris: once Christie’s, once Sotheby’s and once Artcurial. Being able to work on the same level with the utterly famous auction houses controlling a significant percentage of the art market allowed Artcurial to develop in Europe.
Thanks to its exploratory relationship with three centuries of luxury creation, the modern, enterprising Artcurial reveals a love affair with the best moments of time.
The trained eye of its specialists carefully selects pieces impressing through style, craftsmanship, design and renowned luxury houses.
The objects auctioned in Monaco in July 2016 surprised through their uniqueness. To the point they made auctioneers conscious of their rare chance to acquire an exquisite piece of excellent craft. One they cannot see being made anymore today.
The surprise an Artcurial event offers to its clientele: the unknown treasure coming now to the surface and affirming its full life.
A contemporary discovery surrounds these treasures.
The desire to acquire the auctioned creations is passionate right now.
Monte-Carlo is the perfect place to enjoy the act of purchasing luxury. In the sunny Monegasque streets, I experienced an all-embracing holidays’ feeling that affluent visitors freely immerse into. Moreover, there is safety that allows them to show and enjoy their luxurious life style and taste.
In the elegant atmosphere of Hôtel Hermitage hosting Artcurial’s 11th session of prestigious summer sales, I had the privilege of interviewing
Mr Martin Guesnet, Director in charge of Artcurial’s development in Europe, who devotes his professional life to Contemporary Art
Roxana-Florina Popa: Artcurial started as an art gallery; also, you were the director of the famous galleries Beaubourg and Karsten Greve in Paris. Does an auction house develop differently from an art gallery?
Martin Guesnet: An art gallery and an auction house are about two different professions. They have different natures and approaches. A gallery builds itself 100% around the gallerist, a professional who sets up a business on his or her behalf, represents artists, supports and promotes them. A gallerist specifically focuses his or her engagement to a group of artists representing an art trend, a certain period of time – for example, the Old Masters, contemporary or even on designers. Art dealers in the gallery strive to promote the artists by presenting their works in various exhibitions. They can really influence the artists’ career and build their name based on their market position.
An auction house is a reseller. It shows the difference between the primary and the secondary market. A gallerist is there to take care of the relation between artists and collectors. This is the primary market.
When the artist’s works are returned to the market by a collector, we are on the secondary market. This is where auction houses come into play.
One talks about 3D: Disease, Death and Divorce. So, the role of an auction house is to bring to the market something that belonged to a collector. An auctioneer is a generalist who has a global knowledge from Old Masters, to antiquities, the 1900s, Design, Photography and Contemporary Art. This distinguishes fundamentally an auction house from an art gallery.
RFP: Do the Artcurial beginnings as an art gallery impact the artistic vision of the auction house?
MG: Artcurial was founded in the 70s by Mrs Liliane Bettencourt, owner of the group L’Oréal, in order to put on the market and promote collectors’ editions. Artcurial became famous for editions of Lalande, Armand, Lazzarelli – the first Artcurial logo was designed by Lazzarelli.
We have, of course, kept this cultural tradition. In the heart of the house next to Champs-Élysées, there is still the biggest art bookshop in Paris. It is also very important for us to organise, in parallel to our art auctions, art exhibitions or to support cultural projects. This remains the soul of the house.
RFP: What was the most exciting city in the European development of Artcurial?
MG: Artcurial was founded almost 15 years ago in Paris. It is a young house and developed quite naturally. We opened the first office in Brussels. Why Brussels? Due to a multitude of reasons. Brussels has a big French group of well-established and followed artists. We want to be close to the French and Belgian artists there. Also, Belgian collectors are very important and active in Europe.
In the same year, with the support of our Italian colleague and thanks to a good opportunity to rent great premises in Milan, we decided to open an office there. The Italian scene is of big importance to us and the office in Milan has been very active and successful in the last 5 years.
This being our Latin roots and I, being both German and French, we decided to expand to the German-speaking area. Through our Austrian colleague, Caroline Messensee, who made us an offer and developed a project, we opened an office in Vienna. As concerns Germany, the answer to the location question was Munich and we are now very happy.
Monaco is Europe, too. We run here jewellery and watch auctions twice year and sometimes also old-timer auctions.
We are now consolidating and reflecting about Switzerland, as well as Hong Kong and New York outside Europe. These are our projects for the next 5 years.
RFP: What kind of enjoyment procures an acquisition at an auction event?
MG: Almost each person is a collector. One starts in childhood with stamps. The impulse to collect is very old. There are as many collections as human beings. Everything can be collected. We can talk about a collection when we have a group of objects that are related to one another in a conceptual manner. There is no limit to establishing a collection.
Regarding the customers interested in collecting, there are so many typologies and characters. It is not about money here. One does not have to be rich to collect. One needs to be passionate and have an idea. One can buy works from the 1800s, what is now unfashionable, however, there are so many beautiful and interesting works there; or works of unknown, intriguing artists. It is all a matter of passion and of being touched intellectually by the works’ concept. There are no limits to one’s fantasy. There is always an idea behind a veritable collection.
Even if the purchaser has no idea, he certainly has a taste, a regard which grow with the collector and the surrounding objects he lives with.
There are also purchasers who have the investment in view. This is less relevant. There are material values, no matter if this is a car, an art work. A cartoon drawing, an aquarelle or a Tintin drawing could be sold 20-30 years ago for a few hundred Euros and suddenly, this can cost 100,000 Euro or millions today. It is the role of specialists to provide good advice. If a customer possesses objects in this price range, the right support needs to be given.
RFP: Which are the first reactions of the German market after the new office opening in Munich?
MG: There is a lot of curiosity: “what do the French want?”
I feel there are very positive expectations.
Paris is an alternative to London and to the German market. We can be successful with our Anglo-Saxon professionalism and with our outstanding cultural approach.
Our German customers became more and more numerous in the last years. This speaks about the quality of our offer which is always better. The German market has an incredible potential. In Germany, as in France, there is a big patrimoine with lots of great objects and values. German customers are curious, searching for quality and an offer responding to their taste. Our presence in Munich is very important for us. We have Moritz von der Heydte there, who is well-known and well-established, as well as my support.
We would like to be more active also in North Rhine Westphalia. We are going to organise various events. We sponsor vernissages or exhibitions in order to become more known to the German customers.
Discover more exquisite and unique international artists in the Confidential Collector’s Guide