After last weekend at Maastrict I was feeling more cultured than a European yogurt. And the sun was out, which always makes me resolutely museums averse. This did not stop us from stopping by the local auction house.
Druout is the famous auction facility in the 2nd arrondisement, but in 2000 they lost their monopoly on the auction scene and a group of well known auctioneers teamed with the Dassault family to purchase Artcurial, a gallery owned by the L’Oréal family, creating the most important auction house in France. You may not recognize the Dassault name, but that is because, unlike the previous owner, their goods are rarely found on drugstore shelves. They build military airplanes.
Housed behind gilded gates in the Maison Dassault, an aristocratic mansion on the Champs Elysées, Artcurial is known for their bi-annual sales of Hermes goods, comic book art and aeronautical mementos. They also have sales for watches, 20th century art, Art Deco furniture and African art, as well as many others.
Its intimidating walking through the small door in the large grill, but once inside the gates, it is an interesting place and everyone (except cat burglars) is genuinely welcome. Just beyond the reception, to the left is an exhibition space to full of art or artifacts from the next show to go up on the block. To the right is a small room with catalogues for all the coming shows.
Beyond the exhibition space is a large bookstore, with a fantastic collection of art books, divided by genre, and which includes a great kid’s section. Beyond the catalogue area is a cafe where palm trees thrive under skylights.
Upstairs is more display space where you are just as likely to stumble over a rocket ship pod as an Hermès Kelly Bag. And if it happens to be auction day, the bidding room is also open to the public for most sales.
It is thrilling sitting there as paddles raise and the auctioneers dives into his patter and paddles begin to raise. You must pre-register for a paddle if you wish to bid, so there is absolutely no chance of you accidentally bidding the family fortune on, say, a staircase from a 1930’s cruise ship.
If you are interested in a paddle of your own, the process is easy, you can even register online. And if you’re really desperate for an original drawing of TinTin, you can even pre-bid several days in advance, giving The House your budget in the hopes that the hammer falls in your favor.