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Unsuccessful Auctions OK With Shafrazi

Going, going … not going.

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Gallerist Tony Shafrazi sees a heartening rationality in last week’s dismal contemporary-art auctions. “We have a new level developing,” he said at the Sotheby’s sale, which failed to move nearly a third of its lots. “There’s sanity, everything’s healthier, more accurate.” The overheated market caused prices to get out of hand, he said, with bidders paying up to $150 million for works that were worth “at best $10 million.” He cited a Warhol dollar-sign painting a bidder won for $1.8 million, well under its $2.5 million low estimate. Two years ago, paintings in that series sold for $750,000, according to Shafrazi. “You’ve got to keep in mind where the prices were before they began rising four or five years ago,” he said. “It’s a ridiculous expectation for things to go up ten, fifteen times within a year or two.”

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