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Christie’s International recorded total sales of £761m ($1.172bn) for January-June – a rise of 22 per cent (16 per cent in dollars, due to fluctuations in the exchange rate) on the previous year.

This puts them slightly ahead of Sotheby’s, whose total sales of $1.040bn represent a rise of less than one per cent on the same period last year.

The figures included 124 lots that broke the $1m barrier, including Picasso’s Nature Morte aux Tulipes which sold for $26m at the May sale of 20th century art at the Rockefeller Center, Christie’s New York Headquarters.

And despite a major shift in the art market to New York, Christie’s chief executive officer, Ed Dolman, praised the “most notable” contribution of the London sales to the “magnificent results”.

European sales topped £319m ($492m), with £186m ($287m) from Christie’s London HQ in King Street alone. US sales totalled £385m ($593m) and Asian/Australian sales nearly doubled at £57m ($88m).

Almost all areas recorded rises, with strongest areas being Contemporary Art, up 88 per cent in sterling (79 per cent in dollars), Asian Art up 64 (56) per cent, and Books and Manuscripts – boosted by a record $8m (£5m) for Audubon’s Birds of America – up 59 (51) per cent at £26.2m ($40.6m). The booming Irish economy – and the attraction of John William Waterhouse – saw British and Irish Art more than double last year’s figures at £43m ($66m).

Profits were not announced, but Mr Dolman said the company was looking forward to expansion in Asia, the inaugural sales in France and Internet developments at christies.com.