The French early summer auction season kicked off with Yann Le Mouël's May 19th sale at Richelieu Drouot, the building where most Paris auctions are held. Viviane Esders is the expert here. While I previewed this auction, I had to dash across the Channel to London to preview the sales there (see the last two issues of the newsletter for the reports on those auctions).
The sale did ok by French standards, selling just under 250,000 euros (about $285,000 at the time of the auction), including the buyers' premium of 17.94% including the VAT (Value Added Tax). The euro was about $1.13 each at the time of the sale, although it has risen to as much as $1.20 since then but has now dropped back to about $1.14. The basic problem here was that the buy-in rate was well over 63% with only 36.3% sold, although there was some activity after the sale apparently. The problems were timing (most serious buyers, including French dealers, were in London), too high reserves, and generally late-printed or lower end material.
The phones and commission bids provided most of the action for a pretty quiet auction room, according to my sources.
There were some high spots, however. The top lot of the auction, a Man Ray of Madame Belperron's hands with jewelry from 1934-35 (lot 168), sold to a Swiss collector for nearly 26,000 euros (a little over $29,000).
A Drtikol nude silver print (lot 148) sold for just over 20,000 euros (about $23,000), which was not a record for a silver print by Drtikol, but certainly was high for one. His nudes in pigment prints have been selling regularly over this mark, but not many of the silver prints, but this was a particularly attractive modernist nude. It sold to the same Swiss collector.
An iconic and reportedly unique silver print by Richard Avedon of dancer Sylvie Guillem (lot 309) sold for 17,691 euros to a South American collector.
Another collector from Monaco picked up a print of Cartier-Bresson's Srinagar, Kashmir (lot 223). This print was listed in the catalogue as vintage but was probably from the mid to late 1950s. It sold for under its estimate at 14,742.50 euros (about $17,000).
A vintage print of Berenice Abbott's Parking Lot at Rockefeller Center, 1938 (lot 193) sold to the Swiss collector for 8,256 euros (about $9,300). The collector then picked up lot 292, Manuel Bravo's Fruta Prohibida, catalogued as a vintage print from 1976, for 7,430 euros (about $8,400).
Lot 194, a vintage Bourke White of people at a ritzy bar in New York City, 1933, sold to the Swiss collector for 6,487 euros (about $7,300). And lot 149, a Sudek contact print made about 1960 of Saint Vitus Cathedral in Prague, sold to a Parisian collector for the low reserve at 6,487 euros (about $7,300).
Interestingly, the New York Metropolitan Museum bought a Walker Evans image of a Tahitian woman (lot 156) for just above the low estimate (4,246 euros or about $4,800).