THE price of $56.5m (£36.9m) seen for Andy Warhol's The Men in Her Life at Phillips de Pury's evening sale, meant that for the first time in a New York Contemporary art auction series the top lot did not come from Sotheby's or Christie's.
Phillips de Pury, launched their new premises in Park Avenue with the sale on November 8, offered the early silkscreen as part of their so-called Carte Blanche sale which had been put together by the former head of Christie's postwar and contemporary art department Philippe Ségalot who is now a private dealer.
Mr Ségalot was the first of what is planned to be regular 'guest curators' for these sales at Phillips de Pury. In return for sourcing works and bringing clients to the sale, they receive a cut of the buyer's premium.
It was widely known that The Men in Her Life was consigned by the Manhattan dealers the Mugrabi family who are thought to hold the world's largest private collection of works by Warhol.
Executed in 1962, the image was based on a photo from Life magazine showing actress Elizabeth Taylor between her third husband Mike Todd and future husband Eddie Fisher.
Estimated at $40m-50m and guaranteed by a third party, it sold to a telephone bidder and made the second highest price for a Warhol behind Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) from 1963 that made $64m (£33.9m) at Christie's New York in May 2007.
Helped by the 33 lots from Mr Ségalot's part of the sale, overall the Phillips de Pury sale made $119.8m (£78.24m) hammer, against a $101m-139m presale estimate.
Overall, the Contemporary series saw much higher levels of bidding than its equivalent last year. Sotheby's evening sale on November 9 made $195m (£127.5m), while Christie's evening sale on November 10 made $238.9m (£156m).
The overall hammer total for the series, including day sales, was $654.6m (£427.5m) which, when added to the Impressionist and Modern series the week before, took the fortnight total for sales in New York to £1.12bn (£731.6m), greatly up on last year's $635m (£423m).
By Alex Capon