But art dealers and market experts say the Krugier sale had unique problems and is not a sign of bad things to come in future sales. They say many of the Krugier pieces had been offered for sale for years at various art fairs and some had been purchased recently for much lower prices at auction.
(Read more: Forging an art market in China)
“I don’t think this presages anything,” said Andrew Fabricant, a director at the Richard Gray Gallery in New York. “It was a rather disparate bunch of material and some of it has a very recent track record.”
There were some gems in the group that sold for much more than their estimate. A Picasso portrait of his two children, called “Claude et Paloma,” sold for $ 28.2 million—far more than the estimate of $ 9 million to $ 12 million. Picasso’s “Cigare,” a 4-inch stick of wood painted to look like a cigar, went for $ 1.1 million—more than three times to the top estimate.
And an African mask from the Ivory Coast that had once been owned by André Breton and Picasso went for $ 1.4 million, nearly three times its low estimate.
—By CNBC’s Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.
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