This year marked the tenth anniversary of the Salon du dessin, the most important fair in the world for 16th- to early-20th-century drawings, watercolors, pastels and other works on paper. Held Mar. 21-26, 2001, in the intimate upholstered atmosphere of the Salons Hoche, in Paris' posh 8th arrondissement, the Salon hosted 25 dealers, the London art-book seller Thomas Heneage and the Librairie du Louvre-R.M.N. The occasion being feted, "La Semaine du dessin Paris," presented a week of drawing exhibitions in more than a dozen galleries around town, topped off by two sales at Drouot of Old Master and 19th-century works on paper.
The core group of the fair consists of the president of the Salon du dessin, Hervé Aaron of Didier Aaron & Cie, along with Bruno de Bayser of de Bayser, plus the firms Brame & Lorenceau, Paul Prouté, Galerie de La Scala, and Talabardon & Gautier. The other participants, who are invited by the organizers, include a strong French contingent (Galerie Jean-François Baroni, Galerie Berés, Eric Coatalem, Galerie Chantal Kiener, Galerie Antoine Laurentin, Emmanuel Moatti and Gabriel Terrades) and foreign exhibitors from London (Agnew's, C. G. Boerner, Colnaghi, Flavia Ormond Fine Arts, Spink-Lèger, Yvonne Tan Bunzl and Trinity Fine Art), Germany (Arnoldi-Livie, Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel and Thomas le Claire Kunsthandel), Zurich (Arturo & Corinne Cuéllar) and New York (W. M. Brady & Co.).
The fair was exciting for the range and difference in the collections on view. Subjects and tastes are changing from Rococo frills and architectural motifs to natural history; plants, animals and insects, to landscapes, seascapes and portraits, and prices from 15,000 French Francs to 1 million FF make collecting within reach for almost anyone whose purse strings can stretch a bit.
With the acquisition by private collectors and museums of more important works, many less well-known works and artists are making their way to market. Buyers were mostly French although there was an American contingent and lots of Italians. The museums and institutional collectors made the rounds as this is an important stop for them.
Although prices have been increasing in the last several years, new collectors are snapping up quality works by relative unknowns. At Colnaghi, a 15th-century work by an anonymous artist was sold "which would have been impossible several years ago."
At Moatti, French and Dutch 19th-century watercolors of flowers start at 20,000 FF. Proute had a Gustave Dore (1832-1883) watercolor of a seascape for 45,000 FF and a stamped charcoal Odilon Redon (1840-1916) Une figure devant la baie des Trepasses for 400,000 FF.
Herve Aaron said he was "very happy with the Salon this year" and at Agnew's, Gabriel Naughton said, "the quality gets better and better every year." So despite market jitters and foul weather in Paris, everyone seemed to have en enthusiastic report.
Concurrently, taking part in the action, Piasa and Tajan sales at Drouot, the French auction house, of Old Master and 19th-century drawings on Mar. 23 and 27 reflected the trend and both sales realized prices above their estimates. Figure Couronnee de Lauriers, attributed to Lorenzo di Credi (1456-1537) and estimated at 2,000,000-3,000,000 FF, brought 13,500,000 FF at Piasa, where most lots exceeded their estimates.
At Tajan, a Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) pen and ink Paysage d'Italie estimated at 150,000 FF brought 1,300,000 FF and an Antoine Watteau (1664-1721) sanguine Deux etudes d'une femme dansant realized its high estimate of 600,000 FF.