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Picasso, Giacometti works fail to sell at auction

A colourful Pablo Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya with a toy boat — touted as a highlight of Sotheby's New York spring modern art auction — has failed to sell amid a poor economic climate worldwide.

A colourful Pablo Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya with a toy boat — touted as a highlight of Sotheby's New York spring modern art auction — has failed to sell amid a poor economic climate worldwide.

Dating from 1938, La Fille de l'artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bâteau (The Daughter of the Artist at Two-and-a-Half Years with a Boat) had never before appeared at auction and had been expected fetch up to $24 million US at the auction house's impressionist and modern art sale Tuesday night.

However, bids for the rare portrait — which Picasso held onto until his death in 1973 and which has been in a private collection since the 1980s — failed to reach the reserve price of $12.5 million US, according to Sotheby's vice-president Tobias Meyer.

Another of the sale's highlighted lots, a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti entitled Le Chat and also expected to sell for up to $24 million US, failed to find a buyer. It also did not reach its reserve price, set at about $14 million US.

Overall, Sotheby's sold 29 of the 36 lots on offer Tuesday, for a total of $61.3 million US — far less than its low estimate of $81.5 million US. By comparison, Sotheby's spring 2008 sale featured 52 lots that sold for $235.4 million US.

Most of the works that did find buyers were ones Sotheby's had priced at less than $5 million US in its estimates.

Several Tamara de Lempicka paintings, including Portrait of Marjorie Ferry (sold for $4.9 million US) and Portrait of Duchess de la Salle ($4.45 million US), Claude Monet's Sailboat on the River Seine, Argenteuil ($3.5 million) and Piet Mondrian's spare Composition in Black and White, with Double Lines ($9.3 million US) were among the lots sold.

Rival auctioneer Christie's holds its spring sale of impressionist and modern art Wednesday evening.

With files from The Associated Press

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