Where to buy art in Paris, 2013 edition

by Carolyn Gibson Smith, city | art insider

You’re on vacation in the city of lights, and your eye is caught by a gorgeous painting or statue in a street-level gallery. A bit pricey, perhaps, but maybe it’ll be a good investment down the road...

Sound familiar? Lots of visitors to Paris face just this conundrum and get caught up in the romance of a spontaneous art purchase. But before you buy, you may want to consider how much fun it would be to make a considered purchase of a truly valuable work.

The Paris art scene is very hot -- lots of galleries opening and closing, artists exploding on the scene or languishing in obscurity, art fairs gaining and losing reputations, pop-up events and parties every week.

So before you slap down your credit card, check out these ideas for where to buy art, and have a great time doing it, in Paris.


A well-respected gallery

Here are just a few of our favourite contemporary art galleries. They either represent artists with track records for value (determined by reported sales and museum acquisitions), or nurture and support newer artists throughout their careers -- sometimes both. They will help you think through your purchase, and ensure safe shipping home. They’re located in great art neighbourhoods in Paris, including St. Germain des Pres, the Marais and Belleville.

  1. Galleries Kamel Mennour, Emmanuel Perrotin, and Chantal Crousel for big name artists

  2. Galleries Loewenbruck and Xippas for rapidly ascending artists

  3. Galleries Jerome Poggi, Particulière and Jean Brolly have demonstrated great intuition in choosing their artists and enjoy sharing their discoveries with collectors of all stripes.

Considering a work at Galerie Jérôme Poggi.

Art fairs offer a wide range of choices, hence their increasing popularity.

An art fair

Paris has art fairs every spring and fall, where you can see and compare many works of art in a short period of time. OFF-fairs that feature newer galleries and artists take place at the same time, so you can tailor your fair visits to your price range. They’re listed here in descending order of prices.

  1. Contemporary art: In October, Paris is host to FIAC, SLICK, and ShowOFF. And you know it’s spring when Art Paris Art Fair comes to town.

  2. Photography: November sees Paris Photo, PhotoOFF and Nofound Photo Fair.

  3. Drawing: From the masters to the cutting edge, spring in Paris brings Salon du Dessin Ancien, Drawing Now and DDessin.

An auction

For the competitive, Paris is home to some great auction houses. You can feel the adrenaline when you walk in the door. Best is to visit a few days before you intend to bid, to see the art available in exhibition. Or, take some time to peruse the day’s sale catalogues, look at past values for the works that interest you, decide your maximum bid, register and go! If you can keep your poker face on, you can often get a great deal.

  1. Drouot, the granddaddy of French auction houses

  2. Artcurial, a contemporary art auction house near Grand Palais

  3. Christie’s or Sotheby’s, the international auction houses in their Paris locations.

Visiting bi-continental Thomas Fougeirol in his Paris studio

In studio

In France, artists’ studios are known as ateliers. Luckily, a few artists do enjoy meeting potential buyers. And, while you can see an artist’s work in studio, he or she will honour their arrangements with their gallerists -- and your transaction will be processed through their gallery.

A note about art consultants or advisors

A good art consultant is a smart investment, especially when shopping for art in an unfamiliar city. They have relationships with artists in addition to gallerists, auction curators and fair organizers.  They are professionals who can help you evaluate the value of a work, and to give you the inside track to the connections and information enjoyed by the biggest art collectors. Look for someone with whom you feel comfortable, and who loves what you love.