On Wednesday night in New York, Sotheby's set a record for one of these cut-outs, La Vis or The Winepress from around 1951, at dollars 13,752,500 ( pounds 9.3m). It was bought over the phone by a Swiss bank acting for a client; the chief competitor was an American.
Sotheby's catalogue described the seller as a European Foundation, though last year's Matisse show catalogue described the work as the 'property of a private collector, lent courtesy of Paul and Ellen Josefowitz'.
It is believed that the London- based couple, who are both dealers and collectors - he owns the art magazine Apollo - bought the work in France in 1987 for about dollars 2m and passed the ownership to a family foundation.
The Sotheby's sale made pounds 33m, with roughly one third of the offerings left unsold. Buyers were more interested in Impressionists than in 20th-century pictures.
The famous Swiss collector, Baron Thyssen, was in the front row with his wife, a former Spanish beauty queen. They have just sold the greater part of the family collection to the Spanish government and were restocking.
He bid dollars 2,202,500 ( pounds 1.5m) for a masterly snow scene by Camille Pissarro, Route, soleil d'hiver et neige painted around 1872. She bid dollars 937,500 ( pounds 634,000) for a view of a sunny harvest field by the same artist, Le Clos a Eragny of 1896.
The other spectacular painting in the sale was an Egon Schiele of a pair of lovers from 1914. The Liebespaar sold for dollars 4,677,500 ( pounds 3.2m).
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