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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The season's big auctions of Impressionist and modern art begins tonight at Sotheby's. Competitor Christie's big night is tomorrow. Prices are eye-poppin. Sales at Christie's alone could reach half a billion dollars. Alisa Roth has more from New York.

ALISA ROTH: Big name artists, wealthy collectors and a sense that art prices are topping out mean this week's auctions are likely to set records.

Christie's is hoping to get as much as $45 million for a Gauguin, and it's expecting as much as $60 million for a Picasso.

Experts keep saying that art prices will drop or at least level off. But that hasn't happened yet, so collectors are anxious to sell while the market is still hot.

David Norman is director of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's. He says there's a whole new generation of buyers out there.

DAVID NORMAN: Whether it be American hedge fund managers or newly billionaired Russians or people in China and other Asian countries, or India, so there's been a real rise in demand.

He says a lot of the stuff on the block this week is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and today's collectors are ready to jump at it.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.