Sold at Auction

Sold! For 60,000 thousand euros, a very beautiful picture by the artist Bernard Buffet. ‘The Birds’ date from the sixties, the year’s highly rated for Buffet, it’s a high price though.

Every week, in all the big towns in France, objets d’art – paintings, furniture, books -go on sale at auction. The most important sales are waited for impatiently by connoisseurs whose motives are diverse:

I am above all a collector, and so when I have the opportunity of seeing something which pleases me, I come to view… and then if I am able to buy it, I buy.

To look at all the exhibits, given that there were paintings by Vlaminck, by Carzou and all those, although interesting things to view, it’s rather as if I had been to a museum, because unfortunately, my means do not permit me to buy them. I will come even so to see the price of things.

There may be things from estates which come directly from private (collections). We have a gallery in the town centre.

It is about the object. It is not for the thrill nor for the price. It is because there are beautiful things and you can have them cheaper than from an antique dealer.

As for the picture… There are many I am looking for, but, let’s say, there are some by Vlamink which are interesting, some by Enjoiras, in fact there quite a lot of things, Cassigneul, as well as some modern painters.

This is a pair of arm chairs which are estimated around 7,000 to 8,000 francs, I will go to 10,000 francs.

Today we are in Lyon, at the auction rooms of Jean-Claude Anaf, one of the leading auctioneers of the circuit. He is an expert who loves every object for itself and does not want some to put others in the shade.

I think that all the objects I sell still give me pleasure. Which is an essential element, because a good auctioneer, if he doesn’t have pleasure in selling all his objects, I think it is absolutely necessary that he does something else. It’s not necessarily the most important objects which give me pleasure…

But in spite of this exemplary impartiality, there are still some objects which stand out:

If you want to speak of importance, in fact, there are many things which are important, notably a very beautiful painting by Chagall, also you have a superb bureau from the time of the Empire [1] with bronze decoration (decorated with symbols of war) which is also magnificent, you have a pedestal table from the time of Louis XVI [2] in gilded bronze decorated with the head of Mephistopheles [3] or of… and of Belier [4], sorry. You have also a panel of ancient paintings in particular of still life, which are pleasing, you know… It is a sale, if you like, very similar and very diverse which comes I would say on the whole, from the XVI to the XIX century.

Until last year all the auctioneers were state employees. But now, in order to conform to European Union regulations, France has opened the auction markets to competition from the private sector and from abroad. So we will be more and more obliged to be successful to survive. Me. Anaf is not afraid:

The key to success, you know, I don’t believe there is any mystery in life. I believe it is work, more work and still more work, that is what I think is essential for a person in charge. The second thing, indeed I have a passion which still exists after a career of twenty five years, it’s the sale, because the sale is exciting whatever the sale may be. It is not because you are going to sell an object for many millions of euros that it is exciting. An article of a few euros, that’s also exciting, because you have the contact with the public there is a sort of affinity between the public and the auctioneer which makes a good [result], all being well and good, according to the attitude of the auctioneer. Very often as well the sale is going to work or not work, according to the rapport that an auctioneer may have face to face with the audience right in front of him.

The current economic climate is not ideal for these risks in the competitive world.

Actually the auction sales have had a slow down since the beginning of 2001. Even so the market was relatively good until the end of June 2001, and it marked a significant slow down from the fourth quarter of last year and… well! This being so, for the big things or the things of quality, there is not much of a problem to sell them. The middle of the road things with prices, well, sometimes a bit high in comparison to customer demand, selling those, really, we have had much more difficulty.

So for the individual, it is perhaps a good time to do these things? Mr. Anaf doesn’t accept the idea that the auction world is a world of professionals where it would be better for amateurs not to enter.

Listen, the professionals are hardly ever there person. They represent about hardly 10% of people who acquire objects during my sales. We do business with a clientele, I would say, of individuals or an international clientele which handles the auctions directly over the telephone.

He has advised wisely those who want to make a bit of an investigation:

…In an antique market or… it matters little… they have in reality more time to look at objects, to return many times and to think. And it is most obvious in the area of an auction, even so the exhibitions are relatively limited. They last for two days, two and a half days, and that gives them a certain length of time. Now at the time of the sale, in fact, it’s… the sale by itself of an object lasts on the whole, this is going to amuse you – about… around a minute, a minute and a half. So you have to go quickly.

I think that in order not to let yourself be carried away, because in fact a sale can go very high because you are going to have one, two, three people who are going to want the object. So, it’s quite clear that the auctioneer is not going to say stop, it’s too dear. It’s the law of auctions and that will be the true price of the object. So, now when you are in today’s auctions, I believe that people are sufficiently warned to know, primarily to inform themselves in order to know the estimated price of the object. When I say to them, oh well, this object is worth, perhaps, I don’t know, between 5,000 and 8,000 euros, because it isn’t a scientific estimate, well, the expertise, after all the estimate is rather… From that moment, they say to themselves, well, he has estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 euros low estimate, high estimate good, well I am going to buy at 5,500 – 6,000 euros. There, from that moment they will have done something right, even perhaps a good thing. So, now if they buy it for 15,000 euros, it’s their problem, it’s not mine.

[1] The Second French Empire (1852-1870) – Emperor Napoleon III

[2] Louis XVI (1754-1793) – Last King of France (1774-1789)

[3] Mephistopheles – A representation of the devil

[4] Belier – Capricorn – the sign of the zodiac represented by a ram

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