Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Art auctions hit further problems

Vampire, by Edvard Munch, bucked the trend by selling for $38.1m (24.2m) on Monday
Munch's Vampire bucked the trend by selling for $38.1m (24.2m) on Monday

Works of Impressionist and Modern art have again struggled at auction in New York, with nearly half of pieces at a Christie's sale going unsold.

Some 46% of 82 works on sale at Thursday's auction - including two Picassos - were not sold. The auction fell $100m (63.4m) short of estimates.

Two other auctions in the city this week have suggested that modern art is being hit by the financial downturn.

A third of 128 lots across two separate auctions on Wednesday failed to sell.

'Reduced level'

Christie's honorary chairman Christopher Burge said that the millions of dollars still taken in "this climate of financial turmoil" suggested "there is still a great deal of money left for the art market".

But he said the outcome of Thursday's auction was "obviously a reduced level and we have to recognise that".

Mark Rothko's No 43 (Mauve)
Rothko's No 43 (Mauve) did not sell at Christie's on Wednesday

"Obviously, in the future we will have to lower estimates," Mr Burge added.

Strong prices were achieved for a few of the 82 works - including $20.8m (13.2m) for Juan Gris's Livre, Pipe et Verres, $18m (11.4m) for Picasso's Deux Personnages and $16.9m (10.7m) for Kandinsky's Studie zu Improvisation 3.

But for a number of lots, bids did not come close to matching reserves.

This was the case with the two unsold Picassos - one which was estimated to fetch between $15m (9.5m) and $20m (12.7m), and another which was estimated to fetch between $10m (6.4m) and $15m.

On Wednesday, Mark Rothko's No 43 (Mauve) - expected to fetch up to $30m (18.8m) - failed to find a buyer at the Modern Age sale at Christie's.

Also on Wednesday, there were no bids at Sotheby's in New York for Alexei Petrovich Bogoliubov's View of St Petersburg, which was estimated to fetch $3m (1.9m).

But despite recent problems, a rare Edvard Munch masterpiece sold for $38.1m (24.2m) at Sotheby's on Monday, breaking a record for the artist's work.

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