The spring auction weeks are a lot like a trip to Vegas. They both involve a lot of fake breasts and new money and when either one is finally over you find yourself left exhausted, hung over, and with the vague sense that you've just been made capitalism's bitch.

We think one of our friends managed to encapsulate the big money art world's very essence when he saw an older bejeweled and botoxed lady sweep by an angry group of protesting cleaning staff outside of Sotheby's, saying "Oh darling look at these people. Whatever can they want. And of course we'd pick today to drive the Maybach."

brancusi.03But for better or worst, the big auctions are over and now it's time for us to pick up the pieces and try and figure out what the hell happened while we were passed out anyway. This year undeniably belonged to Christie's, whose Impressionist and Contemporary sales respectively brought in $142.8 million (out of an estimate range of $111.2 - 149.6 million) and $133.7 million (out of a estimated range of $110.8 - 153 million). Its Impressionist sale proved to have the star of the auctions; Brancusi's "Bird in Space," sold for $27.4 million, which was double its estimate and set a record price for sculpture sold at auction. Its Contemporary sale, meanwhile, set artist records for Hopper (whose "Chair Car" was the largest sale of the auction at $14 million), as well as for Kline, Polke, Cornell, and Gorky.

Sotheby's, on the other, had much less impressive spring auctions this year, mainly due to an unselective catalogue and the resulting poor quality of art, as well as overly inflated expectations for what collectors would be willing to spend. Its Impressionist and Modern auction kicked the auction weeks off to a dismal start, bringing in only $91.2 million (far short of its low estimate of $127.3 million). Picasso's "Women of Algiers" and Beckman's eerie "Self-Portrait with Crystal Ball" both sold for respectable prices, $18.6 and 16.8 million respectively. However, high profile works by Magritte, Leger, and Kandinsky all failed to attract bidders. Its Contemporary sale fared better, with an end total of $68 million (out of an estimated $63.1 - 86.9 million), although it still failed to excite. Warhol's famous painting of Elizabeth Taylor sold to jeweler Lawrence Graff for $12.6 million, however a DeKooning sculpture, a Basquiat painting, and a late Warhol painting all failed to sell due to their high estimates.

All in all, however, it was a very successful set of sales, especially for Contemporary art. Although the big sellers are still in the Modern and Impressionist categories, a lot of investors are gravitating towards Contemporary instead, as there is a much higher quality of work still available and lower prices often make for better investments. It will be interesting to see how the success of this spring's Contemporary sales will affect the fall auctions. Hopefully, both auction houses will learn from this year's mistakes and resist the urge to be overly optimistic in their auction estimates.