• gerard van weyenbergh

Antique sculptures, a market in the making.

The antique sculpture market remains a niche market (around 10% of the global market), which is aimed at connoisseurs. Like painting, belonging to the field of fine arts, it has always been more confidential, less easy to grasp. I guess there is a sculptor for fifty painters. It is an orderly art, quite official, which requires a lot of work, material and which is expensive , explains Alexandre Lacroix (Cabinet Sculpture & Collection). Besides, the pieces being fragile, a lot of terracotta and plaster were broken, lost, while several bronzes were melted during the Revolution. Also, there are only a few items available. However, buyers who are very collectors and often very wealthy respond when a beautiful item appears on the market, comments the expert.

Good sales in 2019

A niche market in volume and value. If the absolute record in this area is an Atlas by Adriaen de Vries, (1626), sold for 25 million euros at Christie's in 2014, "prices tend to peak at 3 or 4 million euros, mainly for works by Giambologna (1529-1608) which appear in number and are much sought after, " says Alexandre Lacroix.

An Allegory of Architecture (around 1600), was sold for 3.7 million euros at Artcurial, last March, while in December,

The Abduction of a Sabine(circa 1590-1610), a bronze from the collection of Louis XIV attributed to Antonio Susini, was preempted for 4.5 million euros by the Palace of Versailles, at Sotheby's Paris.

2019 was a particularly flourishing year.

The sale of a bronze bust attributed to Francesco Bordoni, representing Paul Phélypeaux, lord of Pontchartrain, awarded 3 million euros at Drouot, in November.

Other notable prices in recent years: a Bust of Peace, by Antonio Canova sold 6 million euros by Sotheby's London, in 2018, or

a Bust in the antique representing Charles Frédéric de La Tour du Pin by Edme Bouchardon (1698-1762), sold for 3.7 million euros in 2012 (Aguttes).

The market is evolving slowly but surely, thanks to progress in research. Previously, the lack of knowledge was detrimental to him. Still, thanks to publications, conferences, and exhibitions on the subject, the price curve is quite parallel to the increase in knowledge, reports Alexandre Lacroix. For the expert Albéric Froissart, it is precisely the lack of knowledge that makes the market is pipetted and that the prices remain abnormally low, apart from the big names that are appealing. And to add: It's time to buy! Today, it is still possible to mount the most beautiful collection in the world for cheap. From 50,000 euros, you can have a masterpiece. "

The sculpture market is divided into several sub-markets. And if the clientele is global - Americans, English, Germans, French, with some Italians on the fringes -, each category corresponds to a particular type of collectors. The sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century bronzes, the Italian bronzes and Louis XIV are highly sought after by particularly active sharp collectors, who let nothing pass. For the 18th century French sculpture (terracotta busts, sculptures by Clodion, Augustin Pajou, subjects drawn from mythology, etc.), it is another group of collectors who, in general, also collect drawings and paintings, specifies Alexandre Lacroix. The 19th-century sculpture, more supplied with merchandise, concerns a much wider range of buyers. Wood is generally related to the High Era and religious sculpture - affecting German and English customers -, while decorative sculpture, such as marbles, large statues from Antiquity or known models, works quite well due to a spectacular effect. However, it is the Renaissance bronzes and the charming sculpture of the 18th century in terracotta that is favored by the public," consents Alexandre Lacroix.

Too irregular market

On the merchant side, few are specialized in the category. In Paris, there are less than a dozen - Patrice Bellanger less (disappeared in 2014) -, while London is home to two renowned merchants: Daniel Katz and the Tomasso brothers. It is a difficult area to understand, faced with the scarcity of works: there are approximately one hundred paintings sold for a sculpture sold; this explains why there are fewer specialized merchants , explains Olivier Trebosc (Trebosc & Van Lelyveld gallery, Paris). According to him, the market oscillates: There are periods more difficult than others. There, I just returned four pieces in a short time, good news. He adds: A salon like Fine Arts is good for sculpture because people see that it can be easily combined with painting. "

However, this market can still grow. It is still to be built. Many discoveries remain to be made, many pieces being still in private hands, indicates Albéric Froissart, before specifying: If one wishes to collect an exceptional collection, choosing the field of sculpture is the wisest choice that is. Le Journal des Arts