The art auction season in New York is underway, with expectations of bringing in an impressive $2.5 billion in proceeds. However, things have started off slowly, suggesting that even wealthy art collectors are becoming more selective in their purchases.

On Tuesday, two notable works were sold at Christie's auction house. An untitled piece from Cy Twombly’s Bacchus series fetched $19.9 million, while a 1981 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $11.9 million. These prices were near the lower end of the anticipated sales range.

Christie's auction of 21st-century art, featuring 41 works, generated approximately $88.4 million (excluding fees), falling short of the $93 million minimum estimate. However, with fees included, the total reached approximately $107.5 million, with an impressive 95% of all lots sold.

The highlight of this week's auctions will be Sotheby's sale of a 1932 Pablo Picasso painting from Emily Fisher Landau's art collection. This masterpiece is expected to reach a sale price of $120 million. The entire collection, consisting of 31 pieces, is estimated to bring in between $344 million and $400 million.

These auctions are part of a series of fall art fairs and auctions that commenced in September with the New York Armory Show and continued in London with two Frieze art fairs and various auctions before concluding in Paris. The results have been varied, making it difficult to discern the overall state of the art market.

Looking ahead, Christie's will be auctioning three paintings by French artist Paul Cézanne on Thursday. This sale is significant as the pieces are being put up for sale by Museum Langmatt in Baden, Switzerland, out of financial necessity. One of the paintings is estimated to reach a price range of $35 million to $55 million.

The art market in New York is off to a cautious start, with collectors exercising more discretion in their purchases. However, the upcoming auctions and sales offer a glimmer of hope for the industry. We will continue to monitor the market and provide updates on the latest developments.

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