Christie’s evening sale of Contemporary art in New York last night posted a hammer total of $435.5m (£294.2m).

This was marginally shy of the $437.7m (£241,335) generated at the famous 'Bloch-Bauer' sale at Christie's New York in November 2006 - the most valuable single sale in art market history.

However, since the buyer's premium has increased over the last seven years, the premium-inclusive total of $495m (£334.5m) for the current sale allowed Christie's to claim the 'highest total in auction history'. The premium-inclusive total for the 'Bloch-Bauer' sale was $491.5m (£271m).

The evening sale on May 15 saw record prices for major names such as Jackson Pollock (1912-1956), Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), along with nine other artist's records, as the Contemporary art market moved to an unprecedented level as the recent rises in global stock markets seemed to add confidence to the sector.

Christie's head of post-War and contemporary art Brett Gorvy said: "The remarkable bidding and record prices set reflect a new era in the art market, wherein seasoned collectors and new bidders compete at the highest level within a global market."

Abstract Demand

The top lot of the auction was Pollock's Number 19, 1948. A trademark drip painting, the 2ft 7in x 221/2in (78 x 57cm) oil and enamel on paper mounted on canvas was a piece of American abstract expressionism the like of which are currently experiencing hot demand.

Having previously sold at auction for a premium-inclusive $2.42m (£1.57m) at Christie's New York in May 1993, it was offered here with an estimate of $25m-35m having been consigned by an American foundation. On the night, it drew four interested parties and was knocked down to an anonymous buyer at a premium-inclusive $52m (£35.1m).

The previous auction high for Polllock was Number 4, 1951, which took $36m (£23.5m) hammer at Sotheby's New York last November.

Another piece of abstract expressionism making a serious contribution to the bottom line was Mark Rothko's (1903-1970) Untitled (Black on Maroon) of 1958. Estimated at $15m-20m, it sold to a US dealer at $24m (£16.2m).

Record Lichtenstein

Meanwhile, a new high came for pop artist Roy Lichtenstein when Woman with Flowered Hat from 1963 was knocked down to a European private buyer for $50m (£33.8m).

Consigned by an East Coast collector who had purchased it from the Gagosian Gallery, it had an estimate on request and a symbol in the catalogue denoted the auctioneers had issued a guarantee on the picture.

Drawing multiple bidders, it was knocked down in the room to London jeweller Laurence Graff.

The work itself was a pop-art version of a Picasso painting of the same title and it overshot the $40m (£25.8m) seen for Roy Lichtenstein's (1923-1997) Sleeping Girl which sold at Sotheby's New York in May 2012.

A later Lichtenstein at the sale, Nude with Yellow Flower from 1994 took $21m (£14.2m) to an anonymous buyer.

Basquiat's Dustheads

Arguably the most stunning price of the night however was the $43.5m (£29.4m) for Dustheads by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The auction record for the artist has been broken on a number of occasions in the last year, but the sum here for the acrylic, oilstick, spray enamel and metallic paint on canvas from 1982 smashed the previous high of $23.5m (£15.4m) seen for an untitled work from 1981 depicting a man fishing that sold at Christie's in New York in November.

The large 6ft x 7ft (1.83 x 2.13m) picture had been acquired by the vendor in 1996 and the estimate was set at $25m-35m. It was also subject to a third party guarantee.

It sold to a European private buyer on the phone.

The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.

£1 = $1.48m