U.S. art buyers still bidding big

From Times Wire Services

American art collectors defied a sinking U.S. economy Wednesday, making up 67% of buyers at a Sotheby's New York sale that saw records smashed for work by artists Edvard Munch and Fernand Leger.

American buyers at the Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art auction were double the number of U.S. buyers who were successful at Christie's rival sale Tuesday.

"It shows any attempt to draw a facile relationship between what's happening in the financial markets and what's happening in the art auction market is irrelevant," said Simon Shaw, head of Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art department.

But the state of the U.S. economy had certainly influenced the type of sale Sotheby's put together, Shaw said.

"I would be lying if I said we didn't feel a responsibility to produce a small, tightly edited, carefully curated sale. We certainly did," he said. "We didn't feel that this was a moment to be having long flabby sales with overpriced material."

The sale made a total of $233.3 million, meeting Sotheby's estimates, with an average lot value of $5.7 million, up from $3.5 million six months ago, the auction house said.

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