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Steve Chiotakis: Next week, Sotheby’s and Christie’s hold their May impressionist and modern sales. See, it’s Spring auction season in the art world, but the fallout has made a mess of what used to be an economic masterpiece. Both auction houses have laid off staff around the world to cut costs. Here’s Marketplace’s Amy Scott.
Amy Scott: In the lobby at Christie’s in Manhattan, Guy Bennett shows me an early twentieth century Matisse. It’s never come to auction before, and it could be a bit of a bargain.
Guy Bennett: We’ll see what it makes on May 6, but I think $2 [million] to $3 million absolutely recognizes the market we’re working in today.
Bennett is co-head of Christie’s impressionist and modern department. He says next week’s evening sale is expected to bring in around $95 million.
Bennett: This time last year, approximately the pre-sale estimate was around $180 million. So we’re looking at about a 50 percent reduction in terms of value we’re offering.
That’s partly because Christie’s isn’t selling as many blockbuster pieces this season.
Art consultant Joan Whalen says collectors are reluctant to part with important works in a depressed market.
Joan Whalen: Unless someone absolutely has to sell, you’re not going to see major pieces at auction. They’re going to get nothing.
Whalen says her own business selling art is down 50 percent this year. She may have to change careers.
In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.
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