A sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti has smashed the world record for an art work at auction, selling in London for $104.3 million (ÂŁ65 million), Sotheby\'s said.
"L\'homme qui marche I", a life-size bronze statue of a man, was expected to go for up to $29 million at the sale Wednesday -- but an anonymous telephone buyer paid almost four times that amount.
It beat the previous record for a work at auction set by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso\'s painting "Garcon a la Pipe" which was bought for $104.2 million in New York in 2004, said the auction house.
Bidders at the auction snapped up a string of other sought after art works, bringing in more than $235 million and making it the highest value sale ever staged in London, according to Sotheby\'s.
The auction house hailed an "exceptional" result after a dramatic bidding battle forced up the price of Giacometti\'s work.
"L\'homme qui marche I" ("Walking Man I") fetched exactly $104,327,006 (ÂŁ65,001,250), which included the buyer\'s premium, said the auctioneers.
The 1961 metal figure, by the leading 20th century artist known for his stick-thin sculptures of the human form, was sold by German banking firm Commerzbank, said Sotheby\'s.
The auction house said Wednesday\'s sale opened at ÂŁ12 million, but after eight minutes of "fast and furious bidding" between at least 10 prospective purchasers, it went to the anonymous telephone bidder.
"The price is a reflection of the extraordinary importance of this exceptionally rare work," said Helena Newman, of Sotheby\'s Impressionst and Modern Art department.
Georgina Adam, editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper, attended the auction and hailed the "astonishing" price paid for the "one in a lifetime opportunity".
"There were so many bidders chasing to get it that even before it was put up for sale somebody had started bidding," she told the BBC.
Explaining the huge interest in the work, she said: "If something is a one in a lifetime opportunity, people will really step up to the plate and they will spend enormous amounts of money."
It is the latest example of a revival in art auction prices after they took a dive in 2008 as the global economic crisis devastated wealthy collectors.
But it still lags behind works sold privately. One of the most expensive of all time is believed to be Austrian artist Gustav Klimt\'s "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I", which reportedly sold for $135 million in 2006.
Klimt\'s work also found favour at Wednesday\'s sale when his "Kirche in Cassone" sold for $43.2 million, a new auction record for a landscape by the artist.
This painting, bought by an anonymous telephone bidder, was sold for well in excess of the top expected amount of $29 million.
After going missing in Vienna during the Nazi period, it resurfaced decades later.
Works by Paul Cezanne, Egon Schiele and Henri Matisse were also snapped up at the auction.
"L\'homme qui marche I" had formerly been part of the corporate collection of German bank Dresdner Bank AG, and passed into the collection of Commerzbank when the institution took over Dresdner last year.
The bank will use some of the proceeds from the sale to provide funds to partner museums for restoration work and educational programmes, said Sotheby\'s.
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