AUCTIONEERS will not lose sleep over this week's London sales of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary pictures. Prices were up at the New York sales earlier this month with both Christie's and Sotheby's totalling nearly 80 per cent by value for Impressionists and more than 80 per cent for Contemporaries.

But for vendors it is still a need-to-sell market on both sides of the Atlantic, reminiscent of the early Eighties. Most buyers are choosy collectors; show-off speculators retired hurt when prices crashed.

Few paintings estimated at more than pounds 1m have been lured into this market, but auctioneers are dreaming of finding four or five bidders to compete up to pounds 1.2m; that would attract bigger fish next time. Christie's Part I sale, Monday (7pm), has a Kandinsky watercolour est pounds 800,000- pounds 1.2m: Part II (from about pounds 10,000) Tuesday (10.30am). Sotheby's has a Kandinsky oil at pounds 1m- pounds 1.3m in Part I Tuesday (7.30pm): Part II Wednesday (10.30am) is followed by the Pierre Beres collection (7pm). Christie's South Kensington (with contemporaries) Monday (2pm). Contemporary art: Sotheby's Part I Thursday (10.30am), Part II Friday 10.30am). Christie's Part I Thursday (2.30pm), Part II (3.30pm).

PRINTS

Sotheby's is cock-a-hoop over one of five known complete sets of L'Estampe Originale, 97 prints by 74 major artists including Toulouse Lautrec, published 1893-1895, est pounds 180,000- pounds 220,000. Prints by Cyril Power, a founder of the British Linocut Movement, start at pounds 500. Estimates in the 955-lot sale start at pounds 200, Thursday and Friday (10am daily). Christie's 774-lot sale: Tuesday (2.45pm), Wednesday (10.30am). Phillips: Monday (1.30pm).

BOTTLE BANK

William Anderson, a member of Lord Moyne's expedition to Papua New Guinea in the Thirties, parted with a glass bottle in exchange for a bamboo limes container with carved head, est pounds 800- pounds 1,200 at Bonhams sale of tribal art, Thursday (2pm). Sotheby's expects the 171 pieces of the Michel Gaud collection, Monday (10.30am), to be the first to fetch more than pounds 1m in Britain. Christie's tribal art, Wednesday (2.30pm).

FELIX'S CHUM

Christie's South Kensington is puzzled by an unidentified female feline paired with Felix, the movie-star cat - both miniature lead figures in the toy soldiers sale, Friday (10.30am), est pounds 150- pounds 250. South Ken's toys, Thursday (2pm), includes 1,100 computer games.

BEST OF THE REST

Female figures dominate Christie's South Kensington's sale of bronzes and sculpture, Wednesday (2pm).

COUNTRYWIDE

Blackpool: On-site liquidation sale of the contents of a novelty warehouse. Lots will include toys, masks, tricks, games machines, Christmas wrapping, Thursday (11am) at Gordon Supplies, 83 Victory Road. Isaacs (061 881 6266).

Cardiff: Collectable books on Wales and Swansea pottery Wednesday (11am) at Phillips Cardiff, 9 Westgate Street (0222 396453).

Workington: Stock of a children's clothing shop, garden ornaments, among contractors' plant, office and shop equipment, cars (0900 871818).

Nantwich: Two-day sale (10.30am daily): Wednesday, 400 lots of collectables, including postcards, prints, ceramics, glassware: Thursday, 390 lots of fine art and antiques including furniture and jewellery. Peter Wilson, Victoria Gallery, Market Street (0270 623878).

Coggeshall: On-site closing sale of government surplus dealer S Barnet; 2,000 lots of garden furniture, tools, toys, glassware, Monday and Wednesday (10am daily). William H Brown (0206 868070).

FAIRS

Christmas Westminster Antiques, Thursday-Sunday, Royal Agricultural Halls, Vincent Square (Penman Antiques Fairs; 0225 444292).

Little Chelsea Antiques, Monday-Tuesday, Old Town Hall, King's Road (Ravenscott Fairs; 071-727 5045).

Countrywide: Antiques Trade Gazette (071-930 4957) and Government Auction News (0686 668851, hotline 0891 887700).

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