Last week LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced that it had agreed to buy Etude Tajan, France's largest auction house. The announcement comes only four months after the company's purchase of Phillips auction house.
The two auction firms make an intriguing combination. The addition of Tajan will allow Phillips to enter the French auction market, which still remains closed to foreign auctioneers, even though the monopoly granted French auction houses is due to expire soon under new French guidelines. It will, however, give the LVMH team an earlier start than their competitors, Sotheby's and Christie's. While both Sotheby's and Christie's have new offices and auction facilities in Paris, neither has been able to put them to good use. Reportedly both have experienced heavy financial drains due to the delays by the French government in eliminating the auction monopolies in Paris.
LVMH's purchase will also give Tajan's customers access to London and New York markets, where Phillips has sales and auction offices and where taxes are lower than in France.
Arnault reportedly has significant investments in several Internet art companies, among them icollector.com, a new online auction site. You can expect the mid to lower-end goods that both Tajan and Phillips sell to end up being offered online in competition with Sotheby's/Amazon and Ebay/Butterfield.
Tajan has about 150 auctions a year. In 1999 it reported sales of $71.4 million. Phillips has about 800 sales a year. Last year it reported sales of $224 million. Both houses have major photography sales about twice a year.
Phillips has also announced it was looking for a more upscale premises in New York City.
In the meantime, Phillips has rented the American Craft Museum at 40 W 53rd St in Manhattan--a mere four blocks from Christie's Rockefeller Center location, in addition to its space on 79th St between First and York Aves.