An Andy Warhol painting that Sotheby's hoped would auction for over $10 million netted just $7.6 million at auction over the weekend, and the work of several high profile artists including Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Gerhard Richter went unsold at London's Frieze Art Fair. Auction houses are making brave sounds, but the declining economy has only begun to take its toll, a reality that has forced houses and collectors to look elsewhere.Christie's postwar and contemporary sale at Sunday's Frieze Art Fair managed just $55.5 million, against an expected $100 million to $132 million, with almost half the lots going unsold. Sotheby's sale the Friday before netted $38 million against pre-auction estimates of $54 million to $75 million, reported the WSJ. The featured piece in the Sotheby's auction was the assemblage of Warhol's Skulls series and it netted more than a million less than its lowest estimate. This was probably because it only had one bidder, collector and dealer Jose Mugrabi, who quipped, "I feel safer with Warhol than with U.S. Treasury bonds.'' Mugrabi's son Alberto doesn't agree. He told Bloomberg News why he passed on a different Warhol in the auction:
These are old prices...They would have to be readjusted. It can't be readjusted for every industry in the world and not for the art market."
In the wake of declining sales, Christie's has turned out of desperation to the foreign market with an upcoming auction in Dubai. That seems like the right move.