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With £1.53bn ($2.3bn) of that from auction sales, Christie's claimed a 51 per cent market share against Sotheby's, who declared £1.46bn ($2.2bn) for January to June this year.

For Christie's, sales in the UK and Continental Europe remained stable, with just a one per cent rise to £650.3m, but sales in the Americas more than doubled to total £666.4m. Totals were further boosted by a 132 per cent leap in Hong Kong, with £200.5m in sales.

New York's Modern art sales were instrumental in reviving the company's fortunes; the £65.1m hammer taken for Picasso's Nude Green Leaves, and Bust, which set a record for any artwork sold at auction when it sold on May 4, capped a string of record prices for Modern masters.

Sotheby's, as a publicly quoted company, shed more light on actual company revenues, and these saw a healthy 73 per cent rise to £253.8m ($383.3m) for the first half of 2010, with a net profit of £55.7m ($84.1m), turning around a £14.8m ($22.3m) loss for the same period in 2009.

Like Christie's, Sotheby's pointed to the bounce back of Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art. Both auction houses noted the importance of Chinese art and the growing significance of their Hong Kong sales.