Strapped Art Market Preps for Auctions

Expectations low as auction houses try variety of tactics

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 1, 2009 10:21 AM CDT

(Newser) – After a 7-year boom, art auction houses are struggling as collectors hit hard by the recession close their wallets. Sotheby’s predicts it will pull in $179 million to $256 million at spring sales, compared to $742 million a year ago. As the spring events approach, auctioneers are employing an array of strategies to restore the market, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The coming sales are key to boosting buyers’ confidence—and the ability of auction houses to attract top works to sell. At this point, says a private dealer, “The auction houses don’t care what the works sell for—they just need it to sell so they can prove the art market is still alive.”

Visitors look at exhibits in downtown Moscow, April 2, 2009. Lenin Coca-Cola, at right, is one of the Sotheby's exhibits which will be auctioned in London on May 12.
Visitors look at exhibits in downtown Moscow, April 2, 2009. Lenin Coca-Cola, at right, is one of the Sotheby's exhibits which will be auctioned in London on May 12.   (AP Photo)
This image provided by Sotheby's shows Pablo Picasso's La Fille de l'artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bateau, a 1938 oil. It will be part of a Sotheby's sale May 5.
This image provided by Sotheby's shows Pablo Picasso's "La Fille de l'artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bateau," a 1938 oil. It will be part of a Sotheby's sale May 5.   (Sotheby's New York)
This photo provided by Sotheby's New York shows the bronze sculpture Le Chat by Alberto Giacometti. It will be part of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on May 5 in New York.
This photo provided by Sotheby's New York shows the bronze sculpture "Le Chat" by Alberto Giacometti. It will be part of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on May 5 in New York.   (AP Photo/Sotheby's New York)
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