Giacometti auction to go ahead

Giacometti was best known for his sculptures of tall, thin figures. Christie's Paris

The auction of nearly 40 works by the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti is taking place in Paris on Saturday.

This content was published on September 27, 2002 - 14:25

The sale was nearly cancelled after a court ruled that auctioneers, Christie's, could not conduct the auction.

Christie's had planned the auction which includes a bronze bust of Giacometti's brother Diego with a price tag of nearly SFr500,000.

But on Wednesday a court was asked by a group of Paris auctioneers to stop the auction. They claimed that French law means that only they are authorised to hold what are termed "judiciary sales auctions".

Shortly after the court judgment, Christie's announced that it was handing over the sale to the French auctioneers and that it would go ahead at the Hotel Drouot in Paris.

The sale is expected to net about SFr9m($6m).

"It is an extremely complicated case," Thomas Seydoux of Christie's Paris told swissinfo. "But as an auction house which wants a place in Paris, where the French auctioneers have been working for hundreds of years, we have to accept that it's part of the process."

Judiciary sale

The case began in early summer, when the executor of the estate of Giacometti's widow Annette received authorisation from a judge to hold a "judiciary" sale.

Under French law, a judiciary sale arises from a need to cover huge bills or debts, and must be conducted by French auctioneers - known as Judiciary Commissaires-Priseurs - qualified for the task.

Christie's regarded the sale as a "voluntary" one, which would have enabled them to be the auctioneers. "It's a technical disappointment for us," said Seydoux, but it's the French law and we must abide by it."

Even though Christie's were mandated by the Giacometti estate for the sale and carried out considerable international marketing work in advance, they will take no part in the auction.

However they will still have one important representative there. It's being conducted by Judiciary Commissaire-Priseur François de Ricqlès, who as well as having his own Paris auction house, is also a vice-president of Christie's. He will be acting in his capacity as an auction house owner.

swissinfo/Richard Dawson

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