Auction failure sends art market into free fall: Half the pictures at Impressionist and modern sale left unsold as buyers decline to meet asking prices. Geraldine Norman reports (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 29 JUNE 1994) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

THE ART MARKET followed the stock market into free fall at Christie's last night, with only an occasional connoisseur ignoring world economics and expressing his passion for art by paying through the nose.

Lord Hindlip, Christie's joke-a minute-chairman, had to tease the bids out of a packed room - the world and his wife always turn out for sales of Impressionist and modern pictures, whether or not they hope to buy. Maybe they are attracted by the chance of hearing such huge sums of money intoned over a microphone.

There were 49 expensive art works for sale; 25 of them found buyers and 24 did not.

David Sylvester, the art historian, was one of the few undaunted connoisseurs. But he had to concede defeat in a ferocious bidding battle that carried a tiny head and shoulders study of Julie Belleli by Edgar Degas, painted in 1858-59, to pounds 408,500 where only pounds 140,000- pounds 180,000 was looked for. One of Christie's New York staff signalled the winning bid, no doubt on behalf of a rich US collector.

There was one other notable success, Joan Miro's Personnages, Oiseaux et Etoiles of 1946 at pounds 1,871,500. After working in Spain, mostly on gouaches and drawings, Miro found his mature style in a burst of confident activity in 1946. This picture has everything a Miro admirer could desire - colour, matchstick men, eyes and birds.

On such a night it could also be considered a success that a beautiful Modigliani managed to find a buyer. It was a head and shoulders portrait of Hanka Zborowska, his landlady's daughter, with a candle beside her, and a telephone bidder was prepared to pay Christie's low estimate at pounds 1,486,500.

But those were the exceptions. A Claude Monet landscape, a sweeping view with the village of Vetheuil in the distance, which had been expected to reach pounds 1.5m to pounds 2m was left unsold at pounds 750,000; a Vlaminck view, Bords de la Seine, painted in 1906 in blazing Fauve colours - on this occasion the nickname Fauve or 'wild beast' really applied - stopped at pounds 650,000 when it was expected to get to pounds 1.2m-1.6m.

The star lot of the sale also bit the dust. Braque's Atelier V was left standing at pounds 1.8m - pounds 2.5m- 3.5m was expected. The painting belongs to a famous series of eight abstracted renderings of his studio that he painted between 1949 and 1956 - this one is dated 1949-51. Apart from his Cubist paintings, this late series is regarded as the artist's greatest achievement.

But the picture was painted in tones of grey and brown and did not have obvious decorative appeal. The last of the Atelier series was sold at Christie's in New York on 11 May 1992, deep in the recession, for dollars 7.7m ( pounds 5m) or double what was hoped for at last night's sale - but that one used bright colours.

The most important accumulation of toy soldiers and figures to appear at auction fetched pounds 100,000 at Christie's yesterday. The sale attracted more than 250 collectors from around the world. A Californian collector, Michael Schreter, paid the sale's top price of pounds 7,158 for the only known surviving 'Blondin' cyclist, a 19th- century toy.

CORRECTION

David Sylvester, the art writer, whom I reported as having bid on a Degas portrait at Christie's on Monday night, asks me to point out that he was bidding on behalf of a friend and is not himself a collector of Impressionist pictures.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits