The top lot of the contemporary art auction series in London was Yves Klein's Relief Eponge from 1961 that sold for £5.2m at Christie's evening sale on February 11. The French abstract painter took three of the top four prices of the week.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Following the lucrative Impressionist and Modern art series in the capital the week before, last week's contemporary sales at Sotheby's and Christie's performed well in light of the severe downturn that has hit this sector of the market over the last 15 months.

The results were a significant improvement on the equivalent series last year as well as the more recent contemporary art sales in both June and October last year.

Sotheby's 77-lot sale on February 10 made a hammer total of £46.6m, above the £32.3-45.2m presale estimate and up on the £15.4m from 27 lots last February.

Christie's £33.7m total for their 51-lot evening sale the day after was also well above the modest £7.05m from their 29-lot equivalent sale last year.

Christie's saw the highest price of the week when Yves Klein's (1928-1962) Relief Eponge from 1961 sold at £5.2m against a £5m-7m estimate. It was bought by the same European private buyer who purchased Klein's F88 from the same year for £2.9m at Sotheby's the day before.

One of the underbidders at Christie's was the jewellery dealer Laurence Graff. He was successful with Klein's ANT 5 from 1962, knocked down at £3.65m, also at Christie's.

Estimated at £1.5m-2m, the amorphic blue-pigment nude drew a strong contest between four interested parties, including an American underbidder, and made a substantial rise on the £350,000 it made when it last sold at Sotheby's in June 2001.

By Alex Capon