Art Market

France saw an 80 percent drop in auction sales during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Justin Kamp
May 27, 2020 4:12PM, via La Provence

A 2019 sale at Sotheby’s France. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

A new study from France’s Voluntary Sales Council found that auctions held during the nation’s COVID-19 lockdown saw an 80 percent drop in sales. The news comes as galleries and auction houses across France begin to reopen in accordance with new safety measures, including the Hôtel Drouot, perhaps the country’s most iconic auction venue.

The study identified 175 sales held during France’s confinement period, which French president Emmanuel Macron began rolling back on May 11th. Of these 175 sales, 56 percent were live auctions, where auctioneers put up lots for sale on a live video stream for collectors to bid on in real time. Forty-four percent were purely online sales, many of which were held over the course of a week or more.

While auction house sales have gradually begun to increase again, with the exception of charity auctions, there has not been a sale in France that has breached a million euros since lockdown began. To put things into perspective, in 2019, public auctions in France achieved €3.37 billion ($3.65 million) in sales across all sectors, up 12 percent from the previous year.

Ariane Chausson, director of information at the Voluntary Sales Council, told AFP:

Faced with this period of confinement, it’s a market that continued to fight really well. As we saw with the sales at Tajan, Osenat, Millon, or Ader, the buyers were there. If it fell apart, it’s simply because there were very few sales.

Further Reading: How Three Art Collectors Have Adapted Their Habits during Quarantine

Further Reading: How French Galleries Are Adapting to Survive the Pandemic

Justin Kamp
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019