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The total from the flagship fortnight of sales was $2.3197bn (£1.6bn) including premium.

The figure was shy of the gargantuan $2.73bn (£1.84) generated at the auctions in May but had already eclipsed the $2.21bn (£1.44bn) posted at the equivalent sales last November.

Much of this was down to the $419.8m (£290m) from the sale of the Alfred Taubman collection at Sotheby's and also the latest cross-category sale at Christie's entitled The Artist's Muse which registered $491.4m (£338.9m). The latter 34-lot sale included Amedeo Modigliani's Nu couché (Reclining nude) which sold at $152m (£104.8m), the second highest ever price for a work of art at auction.

Contemporary Sales

While some of Christie's major Contemporary art lots were offered in The Artist's Muse sale, including Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) Nurse 1964 which was knocked down at $85m (£58.6m), they raised a further $290m (£200m) hammer from their dedicated evening sale in this category on November 10.

The top lot of the night was Four Marilyns, an acrylic, silkscreen ink and graphite on canvas by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) that had an unpublished estimate and was knocked down to an anonymous phone bidder at $32m (£22.1m).

It dated from 1962, shortly after Marilyn Monroe's early death and had previously sold at a Phillips auction in New York in May 2013 for a premium-inclusive £38.2m. The auctioneers had issued a guarantee to the vendor here and are believed to have lost money by doing so in the expectation of a higher price.

Another guaranteed work was Lucian Freud's (1922-2011) The Brigadier which came from the collection of the late investment banker Damon Mezzacappa. Again the estimate was unpublished but was reported to be in the region of $30m.

It sold to a phone bidder at $31m (£21.4m), the second highest price for a work by Lucian Freud at auction, only behind Benefits Supervisor Resting which sold at Christie's New York in May.

The 7ft 4in x 4ft 7in (2.24 x 1.38m) oil on canvas from 2003-2004 depicted Andrew Parker Bowles, the former husband of Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall. Freud met Andrew Parker Bowles through their shared love of horses in his capacity as Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry. Parker Bowles would occasionally lend Freud horses so that the artist could go riding through one of London's parks.

Set against the dark backdrop of Freud's studio, the portrait was atypical for the artist whose models tended to come from the margins of society whereas the sitter here, in his uniform and medals, is shown as very much a member of the British Establishment.

The painting featured in the 2014 retrospective of the artist's work organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London.


Meanwhile, Sotheby's held their Contemporary art evening sale on November 11 (following their Impressionist & Modern auctions and sales of works from the Alfred Taubman collection the week before).

The $256.3m (£176.8m) hammer total came in just within the $254m-313.7m presale estimate with 44 of the 54 works getting away (82%).

The auction was led by Cy Twombly's (1928-2011) Untitled, 1968 [New York City] - an example of his series of 'Blackboard' paintings. It came from the collection of Los Angeles collector Audrey Irmas and carried a third-party guarantee.

Selling at $62.75m (£43.3m) to a private American buyer, it set a record for the artist and was also Sotheby's highest individual price of 2015.

Sotheby's also sold the most expensive Andy Warhol of the season - Mao from 1972 which was knocked down at $42.2m (£29.1m) to an anonymous phone bidder.

It was one of 10 large-scale versions of Mao by the artist.

The buyer's premium at Sotheby's and Christie's was 25/20/12%.

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