A New York art dealer at the Christie's auction last night decreed "the recession is ending," but apparently not soon enough to move 13 of 41 modern and impressionist art works on offer, leaving the auction house millions of dollars short of pre-sale estimates. Major works by Picasso and Mondrian stalled out as fashion and film celebs stayed home and empty seats added to the auction's gloom.
Collectors played it safe, sticking to lower-priced work by familiar artists: top winners were a Degas pastel and a Rodin bronze sculpture. European collectors—a major presence thanks to the strong euro—did most of their bidding by telephone, further deflating the mood. "Confidence is beginning to return, but the market isn't recovering overnight," a Christie's exec tells the Wall Street Journal.