London record broken as Sotheby's art sale raises £88m

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The Independent Online

It attracted buyers from around the world in what was one of London's most keenly anticipated art sales. And when the final bid was lodged at Sotheby's on Monday night, those clamouring for Impressionist and Modern paintings by the likes of Modigliani, Picasso and Degas had produced a record-breaking evening. A total of £88.7m was spent - the highest amount for any auction held in London .

Melanie Clore, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe, said the sale provided "unequivocal evidence that the market is as strong as it has ever been".

She said some of the bidders were so eager to secure the finest pieces that the normal increments of 10 per cent proved too modest. For Modigliani's portrait Jeanne Hébuterne au Chapeau, one of the two bidders to fight it out to the end offered increments of £400,000 and £500,000. It was finally sold for £16.36m, the second-highest price for a Modigliani at auction. A pastel from Degas's Bather series sold for £6.7m. A classic Renoir , Femmes dans un Jardin, made £4.9m. Picasso'sLe Peintre et son Modèle from 1963 fetched £7.4m, the highest price paid for a late Picasso, while his Les Courses à Auteuil, from 1901, mad £2.6m. Twenty works sold for more than £1m.

More records were expected last night when Christie's held its Impressionist and Modern sale, which included a dozen more Picassos and works by Cézanne and Renoir.

London sale rooms have fought back against the dominance of New York in recent years. They have been boosted by the weakness of the dollar, which means even Americans want to sell their works out of London.