No buyer for a Bacon as New York art sale ends

Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:00am EST
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By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fall New York art sales limped to a close on Wednesday, leaving a market bruised and bloodied but still standing.

Christie's post-war and contemporary auction took in $113.6 million, half a low pre-sale estimate of $227 million, with 68 percent of the lots on offer finding buyers.

The spotty sale was consistent with Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions at Christie's and rival Sotheby's over the past two weeks.

The result was "about as expected going in," said Amy Cappellazzo, international co-head of contemporary and post-war art at Christie's, given the turmoil gripping world financial markets for the past two months.

Despite high points including a nearly $15 million Richter, a $13.5 million Basquiat and new records for Joseph Cornell and Yayoi Kusama, the evening's star lot failed to sell.

Francis Bacon's "Study for Self-Portrait" had been estimated to go for $40 million or more, but no bid approached even $30 million. Bacons have seen huge price spikes in recent seasons, including a record $86 million.

"The market is continuing, but clearly at a different price level," Christie's president Marc Porter said.

"There's no panic in the market, but there is an adjustment," he told Reuters, contrasting that to the volatility gripping other markets such as oil or real estate.   Continued...

<p>A woman stands between Francis Bacon's "Three Studies for a Self Portrait" (L) and Lucian Freud's "Naked Portrait with Reflection" at Christie's auction house in London May 19, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>