Just after my last newsletter went out Christie's Francois Pinault bought Piasa, reportedly France's third largest auction house. The move came just ten days after LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced that it had agreed to buy Etude Tajan, France's largest auction house. That announcement came only four months after the company's purchase of Phillips auction house.
Pinault and Bernard Arnault of LVMH reportedly have no love lost between them and are extremely competitive. Both men went after Etude Tajan, and when Pinault lost, he quickly purchased Piasa as a backup. Piasa, like Etude Tajan, has photography auctions as a part of its business. Michele Chomette is Piasa's photography expert and writes the only major catalogue with condition reports in the industry
The purchases give Christie's and Phillips an inside track to the French auction markets a full six months or more than their rival Sotheby's.
Piasa claims there are no current plans to merge operations with Christie's, but they will certainly work very closely together, at least until Christie's itself is allowed by French law to compete next year. Meanwhile Arnault plans to group Etude Tajan with Phillips in facilities at 22 avenue Montaigne, facing Drouot's Montaigne salesrooms.