"[Sellers] just aren’t into gambling anymore and auctions are no longer a sure thing"
Carol Vogel had a piece in yesterday's New York Times on the increase in private sales (at the expense of auctions): "For many sellers, the driving factor is fear. Fear that their friends will discover they need money. Fear that if a [work] does not sell at auction, it will be considered yesterday’s goods." She reports that "[g]enerally Sotheby’s and Christie’s charge 5 to 10 percent of the purchase price of an artwork," as compared to "25 percent of the first $50,000, 20 percent of the next $50,000 to $1 million and 12 percent of the rest" on auction sales.