International Art Market: Recession still epressing sales t auctions: Paintings return to Paris saleroom at reduced prices

AUCTION houses are still waiting for the recession to lift. Sotheby's saw 41 per cent of the Old Master drawings offered on 18 April left unsold and 53 per cent of its European sculptures and works of art three days later; Christie's was left with 48 per cent of its Islamic art and Oriental miniatures unsold on 26 April.

The worst results were in sales where little of quality was offered. But the high failure rates underline how narrow the market has become.

In Paris at the weekend, four paintings that came up for sale four years ago were back in the salerooms because the buyers had not paid for them. Unfortunately for the sellers - the leading dealers Lucien and Marcelle Bourdon - prices this time round were nowhere near as good. The original sale had taken place at the height of the market.

Robert Delaunay's vibrant Eiffel Tower (1929), which sold for Fr6m ( pounds 600,000) in 1990, fetched only Fr2.25m ( pounds 268,000); Soutine's incisive Portrait of a Boy (1928), which made Fr4.3m ( pounds 430,000) last time, went for Fr1.85m ( pounds 221,000); and Leger's Cycle (1929) which reached Fr5.2m ( pounds 520,000) in 1990, went for Fr2m ( pounds 239,000). Most dramatically, Dubuffet's At First (1964), which made Fr7.4m ( pounds 740,000) in 1990, sold for only Fr2.37m ( pounds 283,000).

Earlier in the month, there were only two outstandingly successful auctions - sports memorabilia, which Sotheby's offered in New York on 9 April, and its sale of Chinese paintings in Taipei, Taiwan, the next day.

In New York, out of the 628 mementoes, only one was unsold. A record price was set for a baseball bat when the one used by 'Babe' Ruth to hit 56 home runs in 1921 fetched dollars 63,000 ( pounds 42,800).

The Taipei sale comprised 700 antique paintings and a few modern ones from the collection of a 96-year-old Chinese warlord, Zhang Xueliang. Every lot was sold, for a total of pounds 3.4m, almost three times Sotheby's high estimate. A Song dynasty hand scroll painted with a spray of peach blossom was bought for pounds 424,359, four times estimate, by a Taiwanese collector.

British pictures have been a drag on the market throughout the recession; there are not enough wealthy English collectors to go round. This was underlined when almost half the British paintings offered by Sotheby's on 13 April were left unsold; at Christie's two days later, 37 per cent of the lots were left without buyers. But great British eccentricities still bring money out of the woodwork - a painting from about 1677, artist unknown, that depicts the royal gardener presenting the first pineapple raised in England to Charles II was sold to Christopher Gibbs, the Bond Street dealer, for pounds 463,500.

The Old Master paintings offered one week later were not a distinguished lot, but sold a little better than their British counterparts. However, with 22 per cent unsold at Sotheby's and 26 per cent at Christie's, even this sector is not booming.

Sotheby's had failed to spot the star lot in its sale, View of the Grand Canal, which it attributed to the 'Venetian School, 18th century' and estimated at pounds 10,000- pounds 15,000; dealers decided it was by Marieschi and ran the price to pounds 364,500. Christie's were well aware that their Canaletto, Capriccio, was a winner, and it sold for pounds 2.2m to the London dealer, Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific