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Art masterpieces set new records

Published 12/05/2015

A Pablo Picasso painting set a world record for artwork at auction, selling for 179.4 million dollars (£115 million), and a work by Alberto Giacometti became the most expensive sculpture, at 141.3 million dollars (£90.7million).

Picasso's Women Of Algiers (Version O) and Giacometti's life-size Pointing Man were among dozens of masterpieces from the 20th century that Christie's offered in a sale titled Looking Forward To The Past.

Christie's global president, Jussi Pylkkanen, who was the auctioneer, said the two pieces are outstanding works of art.

"I've never worked with two such beautiful objects," he said.

The Picasso and the Giacometti prices included the auction house's premium. The buyers elected to remain anonymous.

Overall, 34 of 35 lots sold at last night's New York auction for a total of 706 million dollars (£453 million).

Experts say the prices were driven by artworks' investment value and by wealthy collectors seeking out the very best works.

"I don't really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don't see happening in the near future," Manhattan dealer Richard Feigen said.

Impressionist and modern artworks continue to corner the market because "they are beautiful, accessible and a proven value," said Sarah Lichtman, professor of design history and curatorial studies at The New School.

"I think we will continue to see the financiers seeking these works out as they would a blue chip company that pays reliable dividends for years to come," she said.

Women Of Algiers, once owned by the American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, was inspired by Picasso's fascination with the 19th-century French artist Eugene Delacroix.

It is part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It has appeared in several major museum retrospectives of the Spanish artist.

The most expensive artwork sold at auction had been Francis Bacon's Three Studies Of Lucian Freud, which Christie's sold for 142.4 million dollars (£89.6 million) in 2013.

Pointing Man, depicting a skinny 5ft-high bronze figure with extended arms, has been in the same private collection for 45 years.

Giacometti, who died in 1966, made six casts of the work - four are in museums, and the others are in private hands and a foundation collection.

His Walking Man I had held the auction record for a sculpture. It sold for 104.3 million dollars (£67 million) in 2010.

Among other highlights at Christie's was Peter Doig's Swamped, a 1990 painting of a canoe in a moonlit lagoon, which sold for slightly less than 26 million dollars (£16.6 million), a record for the British artist.

Monet's The Houses Of Parliament, At Sunset, a lush painting of rich blues and magenta created in 1900-01, sold for 40.5 million dollars (£26 million), in line with pre-sale estimates but well short of a record for the artist.

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