Paris, France: Drouot sets out on the road to recovery

Drouot sets out on the road to recovery

20 September 2010 THE Hotel Drouot, the communal auction facility used by most Paris auctioneers, faces an even bigger overhaul than expected after the French Justice Minister’s scathing report about its culture and working practices.

First casualty is Les Cols Rouges, the cosy 150-year-old monopoly passed on from generation to generation of a small number of Savoyard families that ran all the portering, delivery and storage facilities. With court cases pending on charges relating to corruption and stolen goods, those indicted have been excluded from any future role.

Any hope of Cols Rouges members continuing in their role would have depended on a complete revision of their status, with those not affected by the criminal investigation having to establish a proper corporate structure and submit a formal bid.

There was talk of at least three interested parties – including the Cols Rouges – competing for the contract, and last week Drouot announced that it would bring in Chenue, long established specialists in the handling and movement of works of art.

They certainly needed to draw on all their logistical expertise in order to be ready to take over Drouot’s internal operations by September 20 – only last week contracts had not been finalised but Eric Borvo, a consultant working with Chenue, said that they anticipated the initial arrangement would run for three years with a view to renegotiating after that.

This being the case, it is not yet clear whether the newly reformed Cols Rouges have any remaining hope of a future within the precincts of the Drouot.

Meanwhile, the Paris auction houses are waiting for more details to emerge from the Justice Minister’s report, setting out exactly how far they are expected to revise their working practices.

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