Record-breaking auctions redefine the market for 18th-century furniture and art, underlining Christie’s position as the leader in private collection sales in France
An extraordinary series of auctions in Paris concluded on 23 June achieving a total of €118,116,172, more than doubling the pre-sale low estimate for the collection. Across four live sales held at the historic Théâtre Marigny and Christie’s Paris, and in two further online sales, more than 1,200 lots were sold from the celebrated couturier Hubert de Givenchy’s private collection of decorative and fine arts, establishing 19 new world auction records.
‘It comes as no surprise that the impeccable provenance and superior quality of the treasures in this collection attracted such strong interest from buyers around the world,’ said Cécile Verdier, president of Christie’s France. ‘More than 2,000 people representing 40 countries registered to bid, with clients from France representing around 30% of buyers, and international buyers comprising the remaining 70%, including 12% from Asia and 30% from the Americas.’
The top lot was Alberto Giacometti’s (1901-66) Femme qui marche [I] bronze sculpture, which sold for €27,169,500, setting the record for the most expensive work sold at auction in France this year, and the record for a work from Giacometti's surrealist period. Five lots sold above €4 million, including Joan Miró’s (1893-1983) Le Passage de l’oiseau-migrateur at €6,845,750 and Faune à la lance by Pablo Picasso (1811-1973) at €4,242,000.
However, the auctions marked a seminal moment for 18th-century furniture sales — a pair of monumental girandoles attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) fetched €4,956,500, and a Louis XVI mechanical cylinder desk by David Roentgen (1743-1807) and François Rémond (1747-1812) — which was probably made for a member of the French royal family — realised €2,142,000, a new world auction record for the artists. Such strong prices have not been achieved in this market since the 1990s.
‘It was especially thrilling to see the extraordinary results – across all price levels – for these wonderful furniture pieces, which Hubert de Givenchy appreciated so much,’ said Charles Cator, deputy chairman of Christie’s International. ‘Among the sales’ many highlights was a new auction record set for a pair of Louis XIV chenets and strong results for the many styles of seat furniture the designer curated so masterfully.’
The auctions were the culmination of a series of unique events attended by 10,000 visitors, starting with the first preview in Palm Beach, and continuing with a tour across three continents and a spectacular public exhibition recreating the experience of two of Hubert de Givenchy’s private residences — Hôtel d’Orrouer in Paris and Château du Jonchet in the Loire Valley.
Alongside 2,000 bidders, 1.3 million viewers around the world tuned in across Christie’s social media and livestream platforms to watch the 14 June live auction.
Two factors that contributed to the auctions’ popularity and success were Givenchy’s le grand goût français and the quality and historic provenance of the lots — both a tribute to the designer’s exemplary style and taste. The record-breaking sales also affirmed Christie’s market leadership for private collection auctions in France.
As Cécile Verdier commented: ‘When Hubert de Givenchy worked with us at Christie’s during his lifetime, he was always obsessed with details. So we tried to keep this same focus, to ensure that each detail of the auction was executed perfectly, to respect Hubert de Givenchy and the man he was. We hope he would have liked it. By achieving an astounding total of €118.1 million, this is the second most valuable collection ever sold at French auction. With this success, Christie’s has now led the top two sales of private collections in France, and eight of the top 10.’