Many mention Paris' flea markets as a great place to buy European art and antiques. Yet an easier, more democratic — albeit random option — is available at Drouot: Paris' auction center.
While shopping for my store Caviar20, I haven't had much luck at either of the flea markets (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen or Portes de Vanves) as both are not easy to get to and are consistently overpriced.
While I could write a thesis on the history and intricacies of the French auction world, basically smaller, independent auction houses both exhibit and conduct their sales at Drouot's building. There are 21 exhibition rooms that are used for both auction previews and the sales themselves. There are auctions almost daily (at 2pm) and exhibitions run all day long. Ideally one wants to arrive before noon to catch previews before the close of same day sales. On a recent visit there were about eight auction previews offering a wide range of material including comics, the estate of a well-known French decorator, and jewelry — all in addition to the auction houses that just offer a random selection of European bric-a-brac. Auction estimates can range from €50 to €500,000.
Upon entering Drouot there are TV monitors announcing that days auctions and exhibitions. At the heavily-trafficked front desk one can peruse catalogs for more important sales, but it is part of the experience to just wander through the building and see what you can find.
Images: Troy Seidman