SOTHEBY’S staged a white-glove sale in London last week as 50 works from the collection of Lord and Lady Attenborough all found buyers.

C.R.W. Nevinson's The Battlefields of Britain set a new auction high for the artist when it took £180,000 at Sotheby's sale of works from the Attenborough collection in London on November 11.

The Attenborough sale demonstrated that, despite the downturn seen across the market, demand for the best quality Modern British art remains solid. This was particularly the case here as all the works came fresh to the market and had the added bonus of being sold by one of the country's best-loved actors and film directors.

The saleroom was packed. Private bidding mixed with keen trade interest, ensuring that the majority of the 50 lots went over their top estimates.

The hammer total was £3.8m, above the £1.89m-2.86m pre-sale estimate and the highest sum ever for a single-owner sale of Modern British art at Sotheby's.

The best-performing works in the sell-out auction were by the artists whom Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila knew personally. The top lot was by L.S. Lowry (1887-1976), whose Old Houses from 1948 drew three bidders in the room, including a London dealer, who were all prepared to go above the £300,000-500,000 estimate. It was finally knocked down to a private collector at £750,000.

More impressive was the record £400,000 for Graham Sutherland's (1903-1980) Thorn Head from 1947, which saw four bidders compete for it against a £150,000-250,000 estimate. It sold to the London dealers Daniel Katz Ltd.

Another record was the £260,000 for Keith Vaughan's (1912-1977) monumental Theseus and the Minotaure (Interior at Minos), which sold to a private collector.

Records were also set for both a painting and print by C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946) - the former when The Battlefields of Britain made £180,000 and the latter when French Troops Resting sold for £65,000.

By Alex Capon