Classical bronze statue of Artemis with a stag sold for a record $25m (£13.1m).

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A case in point is the decision by the Albright Knox Gallery in Buffalo to sell some of their holdings through Sotheby's New York this year in order to reinforce their main goal of collecting art of the contemporary era.

The Albright Knox sales have seen strong results, but undoubtedly the highlight came with the sale of this classical bronze statue of Artemis and a stag on June 7.

The 3ft (92cm) high bronze, which dates from the 1st century BC/AD, has a number of features that distinguish it from any other known statuary types of the goddess. Equally noteworthy is its fine state of preservation. Sotheby's had estimated it at $5m-7m but the room's verdict proved much more bullish.

Initially, a Sotheby's representative bidding on commission and the London antiquities agent Oliver Forge competed it from $4.1m to around $8m. Sotheby's commission dropped out to be replaced by a phone bidder and a further battle ensued to around $12m when it looked as if Mr Forge might secure the piece. Then London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi entered the fray and the two bid in $100,000 increments for ten minutes before the hammer fell to Eskenazi at $25.5m (£13.4m).

The dollar price exceeds the previous high for a sculpture, the $24.5m (£13.6m) paid in 2005 for Brancusi's Oiseau dans L'Espace and, more significantly, the £7.2m ($10.4m) paid at Christie's in 2002 for a marble statue known as The Jenkins Venus, the previous antiquity high at auction.

Giuseppe Eskenazi, who was acting for a European client, said his purchase was: "Certainly one of the finest, if not the finest, bronze or any sculpture that I have seen in my 50-year career."

By Anne Crane