Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Top art fails to sell at auction

Mark Rothko's No 43 (Mauve)
Rothko's No 43 (Mauve) did not sell despite high expectations

The current global financial crisis is believed to have hit the art market after top works of art went unsold at two New York auctions on Wednesday.

Mark Rothko's No 43 (Mauve) - expected to fetch up to $30m (18.8m) - failed to find a buyer at Christie's.

Meanwhile, there were no bids at Sotheby's for Alexei Petrovich Bogoliubov's View of St Petersburg, estimated to fetch $3m (1.9m).

Of the 128 lots across both auctions, a third failed to sell.

Most of the works from the two private collections at Christie's Modern Age sale fell short of their low estimates.

The whole auction, of mostly late 19th and early to mid-20th Century pieces, achieved less than half its low pre-sale estimate of $102m (64m).

Although auction houses have been working with sellers in recent weeks to lower their expectations and their reserve prices, the evening's two top lots failed to sell, including Rothko's painting and Manet's Fillette sur un banc.

Christie's president Marc Porter blamed the current "difficult economic climate" for the poor result.

'Less contested'

Portrait de Henri Nocq
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's painting was one that did sell for $4.45m (2.8m)

At Sotheby's, it was the second day of low bidding with many works selling at or below their pre-sale estimates, while others did not sell at all.

On Monday, the auction house kicked off its autumn art season with masterpieces by Edgar Degas and Edvard Munch that fetched impressive prices.

But a high percentage also went unsold - 25 works out of 70.

Ian Peck, chief executive of the art finance firm Art Capital Group, said Monday's mixed results "firmly demonstrated that the concept of a recession in the art market is not abstract but real".

"Prices in all categories - the trophies, the great and the merely very good - were less contested, if at all, and end prices were likely reduced by 20 - 40%," he added.

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