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Paris on the Rise: A Resurgence on the International Art Market

· Art Market

With piqued interest in Parisian art fairs, revived success from auction houses, an influx of international galleries and enticing financial incentives, the capital’s position on the global art market is on an upward trajectory. Our specialists have outlined the reasons for Paris' resurgence on the scene, both its history and its current trends, contributing towards the success of the French capital. 

Paris: An art capital of the past?

At the turn of the 20th century, Paris was the center of the art market, both in Europe and worldwide. The city’s rich artistic history, strategic geographical location and its seductive allure to artists and art-lovers alike made it the perfect hub for creatives. Dealers on the Rive Gauche would promote new talents, with the likes of Léonce Rosenberg showcasing the works of Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, or Paul Guillaume giving a platform to André Derain and Henri Matisse.

A postcard from the early 1900s of Hôtel Drouot, one of Paris’ most prominent auction houses © Collection Léa Saint-Raymond.

Following the exodus to London and New York prompted by World War II, the anglophone art hubs have dominated the market. As of 2022, the United States took 1st place in its share of the global art market, with 43%, followed by China and the U.K, at 20% and 17% respectively. However, the tide seems to be turning in favor of the French art scene…

The 2022 global art market is dominated by the US, China, and the U.K, with France coming in fourth place © Art Basel and UBS 2022.

The rise of the auction house

The increase in Paris’ art market importance can be seen through the success of its auction houses. According to the Council of Voluntary Sales, in 2021 auction houses in France generated more that €4 billion in sales, an increase of 20% from 2019. What’s more, as recorded by Artnet’s Spring 2020 Intelligence Report, France’s auction industry grew by 49% in 2019, a number that has only continued to rise as both new and existing auction houses invest in the industry.

In October 2022, Sotheby’s France hosted an auction of the opulent contents of the Hôtel Lambert, raising over €75 million © Louis Blancard, Art Digital Studio.

The proof is in the pudding. In 2023, Sotheby’s is set to move to an expanded 3,500 sq. m Paris headquarters on the prestigious rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Their October sale of the contents of the Hôtel Lambert, parisian landmark, raised over €75 million, well over its €50 million estimation. The same can be said for fellow bastion of the auction world, Christie’s, who have expanded to avenue Matignon, current home of Almine Rech, Emmanuel Perrotin, and within close reach of clients working in the West of the city. According to Cécile Verdier, president of Christie’s France, “We now sell in Paris collections that we would have sent to New York in the past”, and it seems that the French capital is now being considered as a direct competitor to the London and New York markets, rather than a subsidiary player.

Christie’s new residence on Avenue Matignon, a strategic position for wealthy clients © Christie’s France.

The same can be seen amongst French-run auction houses. Aguttes and Artcurial reported “exceptionally strong performances” in the first half of 2022, with sales up by 154% and 42% respectively. What’s more, with the opening of the Bourse de Commerce (Pinault) in 2021, or even the Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2014, it seems that French art stalwarts are confident enough in their country’s market to invest in it.

An increase in foreign investment

The rise in Paris’ art market importance is also being recognized by international industry players, who are bringing their galleries, and customers, to the city. David Zwirner, Skarstedt, Mariane Ibrahim, Galleria Continua, White Cube and Gagosian have all recently opened Parisian branches, and Hauser & Wirth is set to join in 2023. Bonhams, a quintessentially British auction house, set up shop in Paris in 2021… and acquired French auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr, to make it official. It seems that companies who previously favored New York or London, are turning to Paris as a serious competitor on the global art market, and are ready and willing to invest.

David Zwirner Paris, one of many international galleries to set up shop in the city © Smarty.

Post-Brexit, Paris is the place to be

Having a space within the European Union allows for ease of transaction with international clients, for both galleries, artists, and auction houses. Britain’s vote to leave the EU, which materialized in 2021, ended the free passage of art between the UK and Europe, damaging London’s position in the art market. France provides a perfect solution for this gap in the European market. It boasts attractively low art import taxes of 5.5%, compared to 7% in Germany, 22% in Italy and 8% in Switzerland, and with the US dollar currently at its highest value for decades against the euro, American collectors are eager to invest. In terms of real estate, whilst the average €12,800 per sq. m price tag on a gallery in the Marais may seem steep, compared to the €16,000 price of the equivalent in art-filled West London, it’s a steal for galleries wanting to open a new location.

The reinvention of the Parisian art fair

Central to Paris’ resurgence on the international art market scene are its art fairs. And the star of the show in 2022 is definitely Paris+ par Art Basel, which debuted in October at the Grand Palais Éphémère, replacing FIAC, a prominent but declining art fair which had been held at that time of the year since 1974. Over 150 galleries from 30 countries were exhibited at Paris+, which welcomed some 40,000 attendees and enjoyed a roaring success in 2022.

Paris+ par Art Basel held its maiden-edition in October 2022 at the Grand Palais Éphémère, signalling a shift in Paris’ art fair landscape © Stephane De Sakutin/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images.

The fair ran consecutively to Frieze in London, meaning that long haul clients who would otherwise be in Europe for Frieze were now incentivized to stop off in the French capital and peruse the works at Paris+. This is a sentiment echoed by Wendy Cromwell, a New York-based art advisor; “I’m going to both Frieze London and Paris+ because I will likely buy art for clients at both fairs. The exchange rate makes it extra compelling for Americans.”

Paris+ art fair focused on selling works, attracting a particularly commercial crowd © Stephane De Sakutin/Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

In terms of sales, it seems where FIAC fell short, Paris+ made up for it. More than a dozen deals over $1 million were reported, with artworks by leading names like Alex Katz, Christopher Wool and Georg Baselitz being sold. Cromwell continues; “It’s (Art) Basel, so the quality will be there, plus it’s the city of light, which is extra sparkly these days. Post-Brexit, Paris is the city.” Paris+, along with other renowned fairs such as Paris Photo and Art Paris, is bringing in a new wave of clients who want to spend serious money on art.

A culture of supporting the creative arts

Paris is, and has always been, a city that celebrates and supports creativity. It is perhaps this spirit that gives the city an edge over its competitors, and will propel it into further prominence in the global art market. As Justine Durrett, director of David Zwirner Paris outlines, “I think culture and the arts have a very special place within French culture”. The French government places great social and economic value in the creative arts. At FIAC’s swan song in 2021, President Emmanuel Macron invited 200 artists and dealers to a reception at the Élysée Palace, recognizing their efforts in making Paris the “nerve center of the art world”. He, and First Lady Brigitte Macron were also present at Paris+’s 2022 debut, solidifying the image of a government who supports and fosters the arts, whilst those of certain neighboring countries seem to be quashing their respective arts scenes.

Paris: A bright city with an even brighter artistic future ahead of it © Paul Gaudriault.

A bright future

The combination of a rich cultural history, bustling auction houses, government support, booming art fairs and the bureaucratic advantages following Brexit may be giving the Parisian art market the renaissance it needs.

Cynics might point out that a successful couple of years do not necessarily make a city an international market hub. After all, France’s art market share of 7% still pales in comparison to that of the United States, China and the U.K. However, numerous social and economic markers all point to Paris being propelled to center-stage in the coming years. As Cécile Verdier puts it, “A new dynamic has been created in recent years, restoring Paris’s place in the art market to its former glory”.

With France’s influence over the global stage growing faster than it has done for decades, the city of light shines bright on the international art market! But how will you, as a gallery or artists, make the most of its newfound success?

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