Desenhos antigos e contemporâneos

Old and contemporary designs

old and contemporary designs

The salons and auctions dedicated to antique and contemporary designs, which take place at the end of March in Paris, are excellent opportunities to get to know this particular type of art, which requires a profound artistic knowledge. Much cheaper than paintings, they attract more and more antique object lovers. The consequence: prices skyrocket.

With seventeen years of existence, the Drawing Salon, which takes place between April 9th ​​and 14th, has made Paris the world capital of the paper work market. Accompanied by the Salon of contemporary design, then by one of the “off” (official) fairs of the FIAC (Feira Internacional de Arte Contemporânea), Slick, which organizes an event with this theme, attracts collectors, curators and investors from all over the world to Paris. . Dozens of museums take the opportunity to promote their best works. Auction houses are not far behind: Christie's, Tajan and Artcurial hold their special sales.

Even Louis-Antoine Prat was surprised. Together with his wife Véronique, he assembled a collection of old French drawings, from the 17th to the 19th centuries, which were recognized for being so important by French and American museums. Art historian, teaches at the “École du Louvre”. He asks himself, rejoicing, what this enthusiasm means: “ Between the salons, the galleries that take advantage of the situation and the auction houses, we are going to exhibit around 3000 paintings this week. I don't know who they expect to sell so much to ”. That's because collectors of old drawings are a restricted club, around forty in France and a few hundred around the world.

Old drawings are evaluated by strict criteria

The value of a drawing resides in being a unique work on paper, created all at once, portraying the artist's talent: they can be done in pencil (graphite), ink (mixture of water, charcoal powder and gum arabic), sepia (brown material produced by some species of squid), charcoal (charcoal), sanguine (reddish ink), stump (tight roll of absorbent material), stone black (thick stroke and white highlights), lavis (single color diluted ), pastel (stick), watercolor (painting diluted in water), sketches, sketches, strokes, preparatory drawings...

There are many characteristics that influence the quality and value of a work, and even more variables that make the drawings rarely have a signature, in addition to the fact that it is often poorly authenticated, made by a pupil. It is easy to confuse Quillard's layout with that of his master Watteau, in turn a disciple of Gillot, as these artists collaborated with each other. However, a study of the first is estimated at 7,500 euros, while one of the second is around 120,000 euros and one of the third, around 40,000 euros. Therefore, the work of a specialist is essential, and it is always a wise attitude to consult one before making a purchase.

In addition to the artist's certified signature or the stamp of his studio, the quality of execution, the theme addressed, the nature of the work and the state of conservation are also among the criteria for the value of a drawing. The most sought after are preparatory illustrations of some renowned work: these can exceed millions of euros. Which is not the case for the vast majority, who, in turn, are also subjected to the effects of fashion. For ancient art, paintings and monuments are the most sought after (therefore 20% to 40% more expensive) than those with religious themes or gallant parties. Even though it is possible to find old paintings (the vast majority), modern (uncommon in the 1950s) and contemporary (a new generation is being produced) from 100 euros, most of the estimated drawings are negotiated between 1,000 and 5,000 euros, while the most notable works exceed 10,000 euros. Even so, costing 10 to 200 times less than a work by the same artist.

Before collecting paintings

Unlike collectors of paintings or sculptures, who are used to bids in the millions, the amateur who collects drawings is like a nice young man. An innocent way, like the philatelist. An occupation that is also erudite and modest: the details make it necessary to use glasses and even magnifying glasses. Arrogant, the painting imposes itself on him from afar. For a drawing, you need to lean. The collector is often a novice: still reasonably priced, old drawings often become the gateway to painting collection. “ My means did not allow me to collect paintings by great masters, explains Louis-Antoine Prat, hunched over a delicious Watteau. But your drawings, yes ”. His collection, part of which was donated to the Louvre Museum under usufructuary rights, “ cost no more than a single petal of Van Gogh's Lilies ,” he wrote in an article.

The hands of time have moved and, with them, fashion too. That good old design, which seemed to be doomed to a slow decline, today sees the most sensible contemporary art collectors increasingly interested in it. For Gregory Rubinstein, director of Sotheby's old master drawings department, newcomers to the auction market are attracted by this type of work, as it is the expression of a more intimate and spontaneous work, a kind of “project in development” that does not present the completed – and, consequently, academic – aspect of an eighteenth-century painting. This is why antique drawing auctions attract a clientele ready to invest substantial sums of money.

A market that took off from 1978

For thirty years now, old drawings, considered fragile by museum curators, have been stored in stock. This explains why this artistic expression has remained discreet in an art market in full expansion: the great collectors were few, erudite and fortunate, generally of advanced age and with no interest in exhibiting their works. Nowadays, however, the market has changed its status. Museums expose their works to the general public. But it was above all the Von Hirsch auction in which, in 1978, in London, a drawing by Dürer was appraised, to the surprise of the specialists, with the record price of 650,000 pounds, followed quickly by other millionaire auctions, that provoked a worldwide enthusiasm for the design.

The Getty Museum in California has also revolutionized the situation. Mr. Prat tells, in the magazine “Revue de l'art”, how a young employee of that museum, George Goldner, in 1981, convinced his superiors that, if the painted work of the masters was well known, the corpus of their drawings still needed to be explored. Soon, the American museum began to carry out mass purchases, resulting in an explosion in prices and knowledge: “ In thirty years, the multiplication of catalogues, theses, researches, caused greater progress in the history of art than in a century ”, said Mr. Prat. The Drawing Hall supported the effort by holding a colloquium that had sculptors' drawings as the theme for that year.

Contemporary design, an embryonic market

According to the highlights on the ArtPrice website, the price of antique drawings also doubled between 1992 and 2002. Except for the fall (-27%) related to speculation in 1987, prices regularly increase between 3% and 8% a year. In 2012, the market was promising, so much so that younger and less wealthy collectors became selective, as a design can feature different techniques, less or more appreciated.

Contemporary design is an embryonic market: around 14% of the 61,000 drawings spread across the world each year are made by working artists. The rate also increases: still according to ArtPrice, it is 52% in one year for artists born after 1945, against 70% for painting. Also, prices are affordable. ArtPrice quotes one of the most expensive artists in the world, the British Damien Hirst. A regular at millionaire auctions, in 2007 he saw one of his drawings sold at Christie's for 4,200 euros. Since you can often find works on paper by the great names of French art, such as Blais, Combas, Hyber, di Rosa or Cognée, for values ​​between 1,000 and 5,000 euros.

How to bring a collection of old drawings to life?

On March 26, a Thursday, at 6 pm, there will be a round table at Drawing Now entitled “How to bring a collection of drawings to life?”, animated by Guy Boyer, editorial director of the magazine “Connaissance des Arts”. , with Véronique Souben, director of “FRAC Haute-Normandie” (Regional Fund for Contemporary Art in Upper Normandy), Gilles Fuchs, president of “ADIAF” (Association for the International Diffusion of French Art), Benjamin Peronnet, international director of the Department of old and 19th century drawings from the Christie's gallery and Aurélie Deplus, responsible for the artistic sponsorship section of the “Société Générale” bank. The event fills the house. The round table addresses the four stages a collection goes through: constitution, conservation, presentation and transmission.

1. The constitution

According to Benjamin Peronnet, one of the problems related to old drawing is the scarcity of supply, which makes it difficult to build a large collection dedicated to a single domain, such as a period or a school. This task, however, falls to the FRAC, whose collections are almost 30 years old, as Véronique Souben reminds us. She explains that she guides the institution's acquisitions, together with her four colleagues on the selection committee, prioritizing works that can complete collections that have already begun.

Gilles Fuchs, as a collector, says he is not afraid to diversify his collection, although he is very attached to paper as a support, more fragile, sensitive and intimate. Also, with the exception of some artists, drawing is far more accessible than painting and sculpture. This is a good start for a novice collector. Gilles Fuchs, like Véronique Souben and Aurélie Deplus, admits to buying mainly from galleries, which usually know their customers' tastes and desires very well. At “Société Générale”, the collection started 20 years ago to decorate new spaces in “La Défense” (The Defense), a center for the conservation, promotion and acquisition of collections established in 2003 - with an annual budget of 300,000 euros for acquisitions . Cultural mediation activities are frequent.

2. Conservation

Conservation varies according to the institution or establishment. FRAC does not have the resources of museums, and Véronique Souben prefers to publicize the works as much as possible, following the artist's interest, and always taking precautions. In principle, after an exhibition, an old drawing must be preserved for three years. Gilles Fuchs contented himself with storing them in files and consulting them from time to time. They must be protected from light. Many are in poor condition, which reduces their value, except for purists, explains Benjamin Peronnet. Immersion restoration works well for graphite and charcoal work, but often its intensity is compromised. At “Société Générale”, two people are responsible for restoring this very young collection.

3. The presentation

Aurélie Deplus explains that the aim of the “Société Générale” collection is, above all, exposure in agencies and for the public. The works take turns and those that are not exhibited can be loaned to museums. The collection is also available on the Internet. According to Véronique Souben, this is the same case with FRAC: publishers are fearful when it comes to editing catalogues. The Internet turns out to be one of the best options. However, this is hard work, as it is necessary to obtain all copyrights.

4. The transmission

Gilles Fuchs specifically does not have the ambition to create a foundation: his children should be able to decide the fate of his collection. Aurélie Deplus, on the contrary, states that the “Société Générale” does not intend to sell any item from its collection, but precisely the opposite: it wants to increase it. This raises the question of the inalienability of works within public institutions, which Véronique Souben energetically defends. Even the sale of lesser works for the acquisition of more interesting ones can pose a threat to the history of art. It is essential to preserve them so that they do not disappear.

So how is it possible for Peronnet to do its job? He resorts to the rule of the three Ds: divorce, decease and debt. Often the heirs suffer a certain anguish for not knowing how to preserve an important collection and end up deciding to sell it - a freedom that Gilles Fuchs intends to leave to his children. It is interesting to note that, according to Benjamin Peronnet, 90% of old drawings are sold for less than 10,000 euros, while the remaining 10% reach high sums, in the millions.

Three Salons for Lovers

Created in 1991 by a group of Parisian merchants, the Design Salon brings together thirty-six galleries (17 French and 19 foreign) of the best in the profession at Palais Brongniart, which exhibit more than 1000 drawings from the Renaissance to 1970, illustrating French schools, Italian, German, British or Northern.

In its second edition, the Salon of contemporary design took place in a building in the Saint-Augustin district. He brought together 55 galleries, each in an apartment, showing works from 1948 to the present day.

Possessing a modest setting, with 9 exhibitions in 300 m², Slick Dessin presents, in a building on Rue de Richelieu, a stone's throw from the Drawing Salon, the works of three young artists.

A spotlight at the Paris Design Salon, 2015

Always the same, but always renewed. The success of the Drawing Salon proves the dynamism of the Parisian art market, as at least five young French gallery owners exhibit for the first or second time at the “Palais de la Bourse”. Continuity is guaranteed, as many of the “old-timers” are always there, and much is expected of them. For some, it is a dynasty, as is the case with the Prouté gallery or the Bayser gallery, which had donated more than a dozen drawings since the opening night. Even though some of the sales were already relatively completed before the opening of the Salon, all the gallery owners we interviewed - including the "young people" we commented on - were very satisfied, not only with the various works sold, but also due to the importance of visitors. . In fact, it was possible to see, crowding the spaces, all the collectors and curators who matter to the world of design.

Although there are numerous works from the 20th century, the Salon's specialty continues to be antique and 19th-century drawings. This tradition is respected not only thanks to certain merchants already mentioned above, but also through the work of “habitués” (regular visitors), whether Parisians, such as Didier Aaron, Jean-François Baroni, Coatalem, Talabardon & Gautier, Terrades; or Londoners, like the galleries of Jean-Luc Baron, Day & Faber, Bellinger-Colnaghi or Stephen Ongpin; New Yorkers such as Pandora Old Masters, Mark Brady and Jill Newhouse; or even German or Spanish galleries, which also frequent the Salon (Arnoldi-Livie, Thomas Le Claire, Martin Moeller, Arturo Cuéllar…). This non-exhaustive list - we do not mention the specialized galleries in the 20th century, but we could also mention the Belgian Patrick Derom, who regularly presents beautiful Symbolist works - demonstrates the international character of this manifestation.

It also represents a meeting for the history of art: in addition to being a traditional colloquium, lasting half a day, dedicated for the second consecutive year to drawings by architects (the proceedings of the previous one have just been published), each edition gives space to a exhibition of works from a public or private collection.

This year, it is the National Library of France, together with a commission by Marc Le Coeur and the participation of Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, which exhibits around forty architectural drawings from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Little is known, in fact, that among the wonders conserved in the Rue de Richelieu, there is a collection of several thousand works bought or donated by the greatest architects.

This article is offered by the Glórias collection, specialist in rare autograph documents . We evaluate, buy and sell letters, manuscripts, books with dedications or drawings of great historical personalities. Click here to learn more 

Back to blog