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Honestly, art buyers, why even show up to auctions if you're going to cowardly balk at multi-million dollar estimates? At last night's Christie's sale combining the 19th and 20th century art collections of Park Avenue widow Rita Hillman and property heiress Alice Lawrence, works by Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, Rothko, and de Kooning were left on the block, making an overall tally of $47 million, not even close to the presale estimate of $103 to $150 million.

The highest price paid was for Hillman's "Metaphysical Composition," a still life oil on canvas by De Chirico, which went for just over $6 million to a telephone bidder. In general, though, the crowd seemed "frightened," said one dealer, and "didn't have nerve," said art adviser Stefano Basilico. Other attendees suggested that the lack of confidence was compounded by Christie's overambitious marketing and too-high estimates for a collection that wasn't all that great. Plus yesterday's fresh stock market plunge may have detracted a bit from the allure of writing a seven-figure check for something to hang in the hallway.

Manet, Rothko Snubbed at N.Y. Auction [Bloomberg]
Bleak Night at Christie’s, in Both Sales and Prices [NYT]