art sales
Tete De Femme by Pablo Picasso didn't impress at Sotheby's London auction.Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

A multi-dimensional portrait that Pablo Picasso painted of his young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter sold for £18.9m ($27.6m) at a Sotheby's auction in London. But art investors were a bit blue as the same painting, Tete de Femme, sold for 30% more just over two years ago.

Sotheby's sales overall were a tad lackluster, bringing a total of £78.9m ($115m) for a raft of impressionist works that the auction house had estimated would sell for £85.6 ($125m). The take was 54% less than for works at an equivalent event a year ago.

After years of growth, art investments are taking a beating as financial markets around the world decline.

As for the Picasso, the relatively quick turnaround may have hurt the sales price. "You have to factor in the fact that it was coming back to the market relatively soon," Sotheby executive Helena Newman told Bloomberg. "We are dealing with the market where every buyer counts."

Still, Newman insisted that the sales were, while not "stellar," were indicative of a "solid, functioning" market.

Four bidders were after the painting this time compared to five bidders in 2013. Sotheby's took a £2m ($3m) commission.

Claude Monet's painting of the Palazzo Ducale on the Grand Canal in Venice sold for £11.6m ($17m), below the lowest estimate. Henri Matisse's canvas depicting a piano lesson sold for £10.8m ($15.7m), which also fell short of its lowest target.

A separate auction of surrealist paintings raked in £14.9m ($21.7m). Christie's impressionist and modern art sales the previous night were down 17% from a similar sale last year.

"This is an evolvement in the market and certainly not a bloodshed: it's the correction we've all been anticipating," Nazy Vassegh, the chief executive of London's Masterpiece art fair, told the Art Newspaper. "What will be interesting will be to see what happens in the contemporary auctions next week, which will give us a clearer diagnosis."