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Turnover for the third quarter saw a 63 per cent rise to $73.1m, while auction commissions rose by $14.1m – an increase of nearly 50 per cent. Strong worldwide sales, particularly London's Old Master Paintings auction in July, were crucial in boosting takings.

Commission margins fell, although this was chiefly because Sotheby's sold a greater number of higher value items, with the buyer's premium bringing a lower percentage as prices rose. As the company pointed out, over $1m, the buyer's premium rate decreases from 20 per cent to 12 per cent.

Although the third quarter is traditionally a loss-making period, in 2010 there was a 67 per cent improvement in performance, with Sotheby's shaving almost $20m off the wrong side of the balance sheet.

Almost $15m of the $73m turnover for the third quarter came from dealer-related sales, more than seven times the sum for the same period in 2009. It was a figure that was offset by an identical amount in related costs, but shows how increasingly important dealer-related activity has become in developing business beyond the confines of the saleroom.

With a strong showing in the $263.7m New York Impressionist and Modern art sales, illustrated most clearly by the record $69m for Modigliani's Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine), Sotheby's are confident of a healthy fourth quarter return.

Sotheby's have followed Christie's in producing a new application for the iPhone and iPad. Now available for free download, Sotheby's 'app' allows users to view auction results, browse and search catalogues for upcoming sales, zoom in for a closer look at images, access condition reports and leave absentee bids.

There have also been a number of updates on sothebys.com, including the introduction of the live bidding platform BidNow. Following trials at selected sales, BidNow will soon be available at all Sotheby's auctions.