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The privately-owned company say encouraging new collectors to acquire works of art has been key to the third straight year of record results. In 2012 the average number of registered bidders per auction was 53% higher than a decade ago, while 19% of all registered bidders were new clients.

Many of these came via Christie's website with 39% of participants in the firm's inaugural programme of online-only sales bidding at Christie's for the first time.

European and US clients accounted for 75% of sale registrations.

While sale totals for Asian art and auction sales in Hong Kong decreased from the record levels of 2011, Asian clients represented 19% of registered bidders at global sales.

Contemporary Dominance

Post-War and Contemporary art led the categories with sales of £986.5 million - a quarter of all revenues and a 34% increase over 2011. The category saw increased demand at every level, with a 14% growth in the number of registered bidders for works of art under £100,000.

The Post-War and Contemporary art evening auction in New York on November 14 realised $412.3m (£259.7m), becoming the most valuable auction ever held in the category.

While Christie's sold 686 works at auction for over $1m in 2011, the market at more accessible price levels represents the majority of transactions and continued to perform strongly.

Christie's South Kensington saleroom, which offers works of art from under £1000, recorded its highest ever total for the third consecutive year, having welcomed a 10% growth in registered bidders and a 20% increase in total sales to £139.4m.

Sales at King Street were up 11% to £968.3m.

The headline figure of £3.92bn incorporates private sales of £631.3m, an increase of 26% on the same period last year.