Booming auctions paint a pretty picture for Christie's

  • @MrNickClark

The record sale of a Mark Rothko painting helped drive auctioneer Christie's to its most successful first half, as investors continued to flock to art as a good place to put their cash.

The auction house's global sales hit £2.2bn in the first six months of 2012, up more than a tenth on a year earlier. The New York sale in May saw the auctioneer bring the hammer down on Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow for $86.8m (£53.8m), the largest sum paid in auction for a post-war work.

The following month in London a buyer paid £23.5m for Yves Klein's Le rose du bleu, a record for the artist.

The high end of the auction market has remained remarkably strong. Rival Sotheby's sold Edvard Munch's The Scream for $119.9m, the most paid at auction, just a week before the Rothko sale.

Steven Murphy, chief executive of Christie's, said the soaring sales were powered by a "growing worldwide demand for art". Almost 20 per cent of bids were placed by new clients, with bidders registered from 124 countries.