Top lots languished in Christie's auction of Impressionist and modern art on Tuesday evening at the start of the important series of sales in New York. Among the blue-chip works failing to sell were star lots by Picasso, Giacometti, Renoir, and the iconic ballerina sculpture by Degas that was expected to fetch about $30 million, but was bid to just $18.5 million.
The sale brought $141 million total, against a pre-sale estimate of $210 million to $300 million. Less than two-thirds of 82 offered works found buyers.
High estimates may have been a factor in the cautious bidding.
Several works notably soared above estimates, including Max Ernst's "The Stolen Mirror," which quadrupled its low estimate to bring $16.3 million with commission, well above the artist's record of $4.4 million set in June of this year for his "La chute de l'ange."
Tamara De Lempicka's "Idylle (Le Départ)" fetched above estimate to bring $4.7 million. The 1931 work represents the artist's only painting of an amorous relationship between a man and a woman.
"La blonde aux boucles d'oreille," a portrait of a blonde woman by Modigliani, doubled its high estimate to bring above $8 million.
Brancusi's egg-like sculpture "Le premier cri" brought $14.87 million, above the $10 million high estimate. The 1917 piece had been in private hands for 35 years.
Two Magritte works went high at $10.2 million and $7 million. A Picasso set a world record for any print at auction. "La femme qui pleure, I," from his "Weeping Woman" series, sold for $5.1 million, doubling its high estimate.
Sotheby's sale of Impressionist and modern art is on Wednesday.