New money brightens London auction picture

London's auction houses are scooping the lion's share of new money from billionaires in eastern Europe and the Middle East keen to boost their art credentials.

Sotheby's has calculated that the number of art lots sold to buyers from "new" markets has leaped 33 per cent in London in the past year, against 6 per cent in New York.

While New York has set most of the biggest recent records — such as the $120m (£77m) fetched by Edvard Munch's The Scream at Sotheby's in May — the trend of new money could be vital in London's effort to topple the Big Apple as the traditional centre of the art auction world.

Helena Newman, the chairman of Sotheby's impressionist and modern art department in Europe, said: "I think because of our geographic situation we are the gateway to the East: Central Asia, the Middle East and the East.

Among the lots scheduled for London soon are John Constable's The Lock, pictured, set to fetch £20-£25m at Christie's next month and Rembrandt's A Man in a Gorget and Cap, expected to make £12-£18m.