November saw the art market hit a new high as Christie’s capped a remarkable series of New York sales with a record $240m (£131m) for post-War and Contemporary art.
In the wake of a $491.5m (£271.5m) sale of Impressionist and Modern art two weeks ago and barely 18 months after Christie's New York posted their first $100m sale in this category, they once again trumped their rivals with a stellar selection of market fresh works by blue chip names.
Alongside the finest group of Warhols seen at auction - including the monumental Mao bought by Joseph Lau, a private collector from Hong Kong, at $15.5m (£8.5m) - was Willem de Kooning's 1977 Untitled XXV, which became the most expensive post-War painting sold at auction at $24.2m (£13.2m). A total of 19 artist records were set as 72 of the 81 lots sold.
"Tonight's sale caps an incredible two weeks at Christie's where we have seen record totals and unprecedented depth in the market in all fields," said chief executive Edward Dolman.
There is no doubt Christie's secured the best material this season. Sotheby's equivalent sale on November 14 was the second highest in their history at a premium-inclusive $125.1m (£68.4m), but the atmosphere was more subdued. Two projected highlights - a 1962 Lichtenstein estimated at $8m-10m and Au Centre by Brice Marden, estimated at $3.8m-4.5m, both carrying tell-tale guaranteed symbols in the catalogue - failed to sell.
However, Francis Bacon's Version No. 2 of Lying Figure With Hypodermic Syringe (1968) was an outstanding picture on the market for the first time since it was acquired by Belgium collectors Roger and Josette Vanth-ournout at the Marlborough Gallery in 1970. Six bidders chased it between $9m and $12m and it sold on the phone at $13.4m (£7.3m) - a new artist record.
Prices for post-War art reached a new plane in October when Sotheby's announced they had brokered the private sale of Jackson Pollock's 1948 drip painting Number 5 on behalf of music mogul David Geffen to Mexican financier David Martinez for a reported $140m.
By Roland Arkell