In New York last night Sotheby's held a lackluster auction that portended a grim year ahead for the once buoyant art market. Of 70 lots at the sale of impressionist and modern art, fully 25 found no buyers. There was one bit of good news for the market: a work by Kazimir Malevich, the Russian painter and one of the fathers of abstraction, sold for a record $60 million, presumably to a Russian or former Soviet buyer.
Meanwhile, New York reports that Sotheby's is seeing brisk business of another kind: collectors who want to borrow against works of art. The auction house has loaned $212 million to owners of art "who are feeling some sort of margin call," its CEO said. Many collectors are hoping to tap the value of their collections now, before the fall sales signal a decrease in value.