London became the hottest art market in the world last year, eclipsing New York, but the recession is putting the squeeze on auction houses, the Wall Street Journal reports. Last year’s influx of foreign money has dried up, and sellers are keeping a firm hold on their most desirable pieces. Not only are the auction houses’ offerings meager, but their prices have fallen.
Only two paintings have gone for $10 million or more at Christie’s and Sotheby’s halfway through the summer auction season; last year, 12 reached that level. And while this week’s sales of $157.3 million met estimates, that's a long way from last summer’s $586 million. In 2008, taste ranged toward the “provocative,” favoring Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon; now, buyers prefer less challenging works.