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We all know what an extremely difficult time the trade – both national and international – have been enduring for the past couple of years, and consequently expectations have been diminished, even at very top fairs like this one.

So I think a lot of exhibitors were pleasantly surprised at not just the potential level of sales, since so many are still in the pipeline, but actual sales achieved at the fair. In terms of business the fair got off to an unusually good start at the opening night preview party at the Seventh Regiment Armory. Always a glittering affair, it is generally more an occasion at which to be seen rather than to be seen spending. But this time there were quite a few sales achieved at the party. I think there was possibly less of the sheer glamour factor than at the other Manhattan fairs organised by Brian and Anna Haughton, but exhibitors commented that the serious buyers were there. Certainly the museum curators were there in force, and reputedly buying with some sales concluded on the spot.

Around 100 curators of both private and public collections attended, with The Tate, the New York Metropolitan, Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Frick Collection among those institutions represented.

One of the successful dealers at the party itself was Neal A. Fiertag from Paris, who by the end of the evening had accumulated quite a cluster of red dots. He went on to make 19 sales to collectors and curators, all in the $3000-50,000 bracket.

Stock geared to times

This was a popular price range throughout the fair. There were, as usual, some real gems around the stands, but less of the big-statement, seven-figure pictures than back in the good times. Dealers chose their stock very carefully and brought things which they could sell rather than just show. It may not do many of the works justice to say the dealers brought their bread-and-butter pictures and left their most expensive works back home, but stock was certainly geared to these leaner times.

Having said that, there were million-dollar-plus pictures, if fewer than in previous years, and I hear one of them sold, but whose it was and to whom it sold is still shrouded in the kind of secrecy so characteristic of this fair and this market.

There were a myriad five-figure sales and a lot in six figures. Peter Nahum sold a Burne-Jones portrait to an American collector for $200,000; Crispian Riley-Smith sold a Redouté watercolour to a collector for $600,000; Didier Aaron sold a Boilly chalk drawing for some $250,000 and New York Old Masters specialist Jack Kilgore sold a Taillason for around £220,000.

W.M. Brady from New York sold at least six pictures in the six-figure range, while Neffe-Degandt Fine Art from London sold pictures for around $250,000 to private buyers from America, Japan and Peru.

Of the high-profile pictures in the show, MacConnal-Mason sold Henry Bacon’s New York Harbour, which was illustrated on the catalogue cover.

Agnew’s and Kilgore made sales, but I do not think Old Masters were particularly strong this year. The French Impressionists are still in demand but the big success stories were Scandinavian and American pictures. Swedish art specialists Amells, who have galleries in London and Stockholm, had a fine time.

Dealers in these fields may have been immediately recognisable as among the most successful, but as I have said often, business dealings in this field at this level are so byzantine that it is difficult to assess just how well some fared – and even they will not properly know for some time yet.