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François Pinault

François Pinault injects cash into French auction house

Piasa gets revamp after falling out of top six

Paris

Christie’s owner François Pinault is bolstering the faltering French auction house Piasa, which he bought in 2000, by injecting cash and increasing its focus on contemporary art.

The firm has an ageing image and last year its sales dropped by 16% after two of its founders, Jean-Louis Picard and Lucien Solanet, retired. It also lost its place among the top six French auctioneers in 2005 by turnover.

Now Mr Pinault, who owns Piasa through his holding company Artemis, has taken matters in hand. He is funding a new policy under which the firm will offer loans of up to 50% of the lower estimate to consignors, and guarantees of up to 80% of the lower estimate. While this is common policy for the major international auction houses, this was not permitted under the old auction rules in France.

Even though such loans have been permitted since 2000, many auction houses have been slow to take advantage of the new freedom, often because they lack the financial resources to do so.

Mr Pinault has also paid for a E345,000 renovation of Piasa’s offices, with more space. Piasa sells exclusively at Drouot, the premises which hires out rooms to most of the Paris auctioneers, but which also has very limited viewing hours. Piasa’s new space will enable it to hold longer pre-sale views.

Mr Pinault is also bringing in a new team of young specialists, in particular Julie Ceccaldi, who arrives from France’s number four auctioneer Tajan, where she had increased sales in the contemporary art department seven-fold in just three years. Another new recruit is Delphine de Courtry, who is in charge of photography and modern art.