The near-entirety of an art collection belonging to Gérard Depardieu, the prolific French actor whose career was clouded in recent years by accusations of sexual assault and harassment, was sold at a two-day Paris auction this week that brought in 4 million euros, including fees, or about $4.2 million.
Over 230 items went under the hammer on Tuesday and Wednesday at a sale organized at the Hôtel Drouot by the Ader auction house, including paintings by Alexander Calder and sculptures by Auguste Rodin, whom Depardieu played in the 1988 movie “Camille Claudel.”
About 100 people crammed into the auction room on Tuesday night for the sale of the collection’s most prominent items, including a small oil painting of a flower vase by Odile Redon, which sold for €50,000, and the three small Rodin sculptures, which sold for €15,000 to €65,000.
The star of the night seemed to be a 4.5-foot enlargement of “Walking Man,” a bronze sculpture originally made by Germaine Richier in 1945. The enlargement, which used to dominate Depardieu’s living room, was hammered up to €510,000 — but the auction house said in a statement Wednesday that the actor decided at the last minute not to sell the sculpture, and withdrew the lot.
“This is a serious collection,” David Nordmann, one of the two auctioneers at Ader in charge of the sale, said in an interview. “This is not the collection of a celebrity who bought artwork just to show off.”
Nordmann had previously worked with Depardieu when the actor sold off the contents of a Parisian fine dining restaurant that he owned. The two men stayed in touch and discussed the sale his art collection. Depardieu gave the go-ahead in early 2023, and let the auctioneer pick the pieces and set the prices.
“He loved to collect,” Nordmann said, recalling how Depardieu spent hours telling him about Matisse’s superiority to Picasso the first time he entered the actor’s home. But “at some point,” he added, “he reached the end of that process.”
He has also faced a growing number of sexual abuse accusations. In interviews in April with Mediapart, an investigative news site, 13 women — actresses, makeup artists and production staff — accused Depardieu of making inappropriate sexual comments or gestures during the shooting of films released between 2004 and 2022. Two other women made similar accusations against him in interviews this summer with France Inter, a radio station. Depardieu declined to be interviewed for this article, but has always denied any criminal behavior.
The turmoil in his personal life might have factored into his decision to sell, Nordmann said, “but not in the sense that he is trying to prove a point” or distract from the accusations.
“He wants to move on,” he said.
Some items sold at prices much higher than expected, including a 1928 portrait by Christian Jacques Bérard that sold for €55,000 euros, 11 times the low estimate, and a monochromatic ink composition by Jean Arp that sold for €20,000. But most pieces sold within the estimated range.
The collection, which skews heavily toward postwar abstraction and contemporary art, includes widely recognizable names — a Duchamp collage; several pieces by Miró. Depardieu appears to have favored rugged compositions, bold colors, thick brushstrokes and raw materials, in keeping with his larger-than-life personality, Nordmann said.
He refused to lend pieces for shows, Nordmann said, including the Richier sculpture, which was recently requested for a show at the Centre Pompidou.
The sale did not include any Depardieu memorabilia. But it attracted unusually large crowds, both during the sale and beforehand, as thousands of curious visitors crowded the Hôtel Drouot to get a peek at the actor’s collection before it was snapped up.
Depardieu is one of France’s most prominent and prolific lead actors, an internationally recognized figure who has played in the last 50 years in more than 250 movies, including “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “The Man in the Iron Mask,” and in TV shows like “Marseille.”
Over the past decade, though, Depardieu’s popularity has waned as personal scandals overtook his acting career. He became a Russian citizen in 2013 to avoid taxes in France, and has expressed a strong friendship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, although last year he denounced the invasion of Ukraine.
But the accusations of sexual abuse against Depardieu have been more damaging.He has not been convicted in connection with any of the accusations.
But Depardieu has been charged with rape and sexual assault in a case involving Charlotte Arnould, a French actress who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in Paris in 2018, when she was 22, during informal rehearsals for a theater production. Prosecutors had initially dropped that investigation in 2019, citing of a lack of incriminating evidence, but it was reopened in 2020.
The French movie industry has grappled with several high-profile accusations of sexual abuse in recent years and taken steps to address them. But mixed reactions to the #MeToo movement in France — which has also given a warm reception to artists accused of abuse — exposed sharp cultural divides between France and the United States.
Juliette Guéron-Gabrielle contributed reporting.