Francois Tajan (left) and a drawing by Ellie Top for the upcoming Monaco auctions (Artcurial)

Francois Tajan (left) and a drawing by Ellie Top for the upcoming Monaco auctions

As Artcurial gets ready to hold its annual sale devoted to luxury items in Monte-Carlo, July 18‑21, Blouin Artinfo meets its Deputy Chairman, Francois Tajan, to discuss the state of the market for luxury items and the French auction house’s upcoming sales and its expansion plans.

You are now holding two auctions a year in Monaco; is there a difference in clientele for the January and July sales?

We have a little less international audience in January, more Monegasque, especially because the January auction is always timed with the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain of Monaco, which is the biggest festival of this type in the world and a very big local event.

Given the state of the world economy, are you remaining positive on demand for luxury items?

Demand for vintage clothes, handbags, and jewelry is definitely on the rise. It’s a sector, at the very high end, that can generate important revenues at auctions. It also allows us to reach a new clientele, the lady who collects haute couture gowns may have a husband who loves design or beautiful cars. I’ve always said that each specialty is a door that give access to the auction house. We saw this when we started handbag auctions over 10 years ago, it allowed us to reach a clientele that didn’t know Artcurial and came to us for the first time because they wanted a rare Hermès bag.

You recently renamed your Hermès Vintage department as Hermès Vintage and Fashion Arts?

Beyond jewelry and handbags we also want to expand our fashion offering, because there is a growing interest for this, not only from private collectors but also from institution. A Dior Bar suit can sell north of 50,000 euros now. This new department, which is headed by Penelope Blanckaert, is a complete lux pole and for this upcoming Monaco sale, along with the jewelry and handbags, we will also have a sale of rare and exceptional dresses by Franck Sorbier. We also asked Elie Top, the artistic director of Lanvin jewelry, to create some beautiful illustrations for our auction catalogues (see slideshow), incorporating some of the pieces that are coming up. He has selected some brooches by Derain and Suzanne Belperron, as well as pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Are you planning anything special during the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in September?

For us, it’s the opportunity to organize a preview of the most beautiful objects we will sell during the rest of the fall season. We will have an important auction on September 14 around Diego Giacometti (the brother of Alberto). it will be a monographic exhibition of sorts for the artist, presenting and explaining his work. We will sell some plasters from his atelier which will be presented in a poetic scenography by the interior designer Hubert Le Gall. The exhibition will run for 10 days ahead of the sale to coincide with the Biennale.

You will also have an auction in Hong Kong on October 3. At your first auction there, you had a mix of “gout français,” what will you bring this time?

For now, it’s essentially street art, contemporary art, and comic books. We saw some interest last time for the later, and we think that this is something that a Chinese audience is going to become more interested in.

We’ll also take the opportunity to showcase some lots that will come up for auction in Paris later in the year, notably, an important series of Tintin Carte Neige (Christmas postcards).

Do you feel comic books is now a fully established category at auction?

Absolutely, and what’s interesting is the arrival of new comic book artists who are now taking their place in the market, like Olivier Ledroit, for whom we will do an exclusive catalogue, which will be offered in Hong Kong. His universe is a little bit between Barbarella and Vampires. It’s really beautiful because he has an amazing dexterity. There is also Nicolas de Crécy, whose works is very appreciated. I think it’s also part of our métiers to push to the fore some artists; we’ve been selling Ledroit’s works for many years in our generalist sale, and we saw the number of his collectors rise, and the prices of course as well, so we thought the time was right to put the spotlight on a few illustrators like him. I don’t know if they will be the Hergé of tomorrow, but it is our role to look for the next generation of illustrators to replace the older ones, which by definition are becoming rarer.

What about Street Art?

We will celebrate our 10th year of Street Art auctions during FIAC with the “Made in Urban” sale. Even internally, I have to admit we were a little bit circumspect when Arnaud Oliveux (Artcurial’s specialist in contemporary art) suggested we should do this as a category of contemporary art. We have really witnessed the market grow.

Any other expansion plans?

It would be nice to have a representative office in Switzerland, that’s the logical step to complete the European expansion of the house, maybe in 2017.

Source:     Author: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop     Photo: Artcurial