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Hong Kong sales contributed £465.8m to that total, putting it behind only New York and London as the company's most important selling locations – and reflecting the soaring importance of Far Eastern markets, especially China.

In the most detailed set of results that the privately owned company have published – a drive for increased transparency, said a spokesman – the statistics clearly highlight areas where Christie's see their business development focusing:

n Private sales, which encompass both private treaty sales and business conducted by Haunch of Venison, their dealer subsidiary, were up 39% at £369.3m;

n 28% of all clients now bid via the internet on Christie's Live, accounting for around £76m in sales – a rise of 69% on the total taken in 2009;

n New clients registering to bid rose by 22.7%, with new buyers up 13%. They accounted for 11% of all sales.

n Sell-through rates by lot, which are thought to include aftersales, remained stable at just under 80%, while the selling rate by lot and value for items priced between £500,000 and £10m was over 90%.

Having scooped the top work sold at auction in 2010 – Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust, which took $95m (£65.1m) hammer on May 4 in New York – this meant that Christie's regained top spot on the list of all-time highest individual prices at auction.

The total at Christie's secondary London salerooms at South Kensington came at a premium-inclusive £104.1m, their highest ever. The previous record, at a premium-inclusive £99m, was in 2000.

The figure "demonstrates the continuing appetite for works of art offered at lower price levels," said the company's official statement. This is an area which also distinguishes the auction house from Sotheby's who operate a minimum lot value rule, set at about £3000. There may be lower absolute margins involved in selling these items, but as South Kensington's results show, they can still contribute usefully to bottom line.

A breakdown of the key categories shows just how much Christie's depend on sales of Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern art, as well as Asian art and jewellery. Together they account for almost 70% of the sales total.

All in all, new chief executive Steven P. Murphy, who has just taken up residence in London, could not have asked for a better platform to put his stamp on the business. "Among the many notable results, the pace of growth in auction, the strength of private sales and increase in online transactions in particular indicate a growing appetite for participation in all forms and formats of art sales," he said.

By Ivan Macquisten