ART: Auctions in the Pits

The once aggressive squillionaire buyers are staying away from contemporary art, and the mood at auction houses is glum

No person of feeling, quipped Oscar Wilde, could read Dickens' account of the death of Little Nell without laughing. The same is true of the fall of contemporary art auctions. Last week, once again, Sotheby's and Christie's began their big spring sales of newish art. In the palmy days of the market boom, before the great flopperoola of 1990, these used to be attended with bated breath as a spectacle of utterly crazed consumption. Watch the chap from the Mountain Turtle Gallery in Japan bid half a million dollars for a Brice Marden drawing! Don't miss the sight of S.I. Newhouse...

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