The auction busters

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Christie's is calling it the most successful sale of post-war and contemporary art ever, after an auction in New York raised $412m (£259m) with record prices set for 11 artists, including Franz Kline and Jeff Koons.

Earlier in the week, Mark Rothko's No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) soared beyond its pre-sale estimate of $35 million-$50 million (£22m-£31.4m) at a Sotheby's contemporary art sale - which also racked up the best results in the auction house's history.

A brief but heated bidding war saw the abstract work fetch $75.1 million (£47.2m).

Art investors, it appears, are still rich and plentiful - with clients in Asia and the Middle East bringing a healthy injection of new cash to the proceedings.

Contemporary art is currently the darling of the art collectors' world. Many negotiate private sales behind closed doors - but the excitement of the auction room can prove an irresistible playground for millionaires, as some recent record-breaking sales attest.

The Scream - Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch The work is one of four in a series

In May this year, Edvard Munch's The Scream - arguably one of the world's most famous images - became the most expensive artwork sold at auction.

The privately-owned 1895 pastel fetched $119.9m (£74m) in a bidding war that lasted just 12 minutes.

Seven bidders were competing for the work, which had a starting price of $40m (£25m).

According to Forbes, The Scream is the eighth most expensive painting sold at a private or public auction after prices have been adjusted for inflation.

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust - Pablo Picasso

Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves The painting was previously owned by Sidney and Frances Brody

Picasso's 1932 painting based on his muse, Marie-Therese Walter, sold at auction in New York in 2010 for $106.5m (£65.5m).

One of a sequence of paintings made by the Spanish artist while living in Normandy, it is considered "amongst his greatest achievements of the inter-war period".

It rocketed over the pre-sale estimate of $70m-$90m, outstripping Picasso's Garcon a la Pipe, which sold at auction for $104.1m in 2004.

Picasso first met Ms Walter in 1927 and began to paint her four years later.

Walking Man 1 - Alberto Giacometti

In London, in February 2010, a bronze sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti fetched £65m (the equivalent of $104.3m at the time).

Bidding opened at £12m. But within eight minutes a winning phone bid had secured L'homme qui marche I, eclipsing the pre-sale estimate of £18m by almost £40m.

The statue, originally commissioned for a public space in downtown Manhattan, was part of the collection of the collapsed Dresdner Bank.

Speculation that it was brought by Russian billionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich was later denied.

Adele Bloch-Bauer II - Gustav Klimt

Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer II (detail) The painting was returned to the family of the model - friends of Klimt - in 2006

A 1912 portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, by the Austrian secessionist artist Gustav Klimt fetched $87.9m at an auction in New York in 2006.

The painting was one of five Klimt works looted by the Nazis and returned to their owners earlier that year.

Five works were returned to Maria Altmann, the niece of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, following a long-running legal dispute with the Austrian government. Four of the paintings were sold at the Sotheby's auction.

New York's Neue Galerie is reported to have paid $135m in a private sale for the fifth looted Klimt portrait, Adele Bloch-Bauer I earlier the same year.

That brought the total sale price for the five Klimts to approximately $330.7m.

Triptych - Francis Bacon

The auction record for Irish-born painter Francis Bacon was set at Sotheby's in New York in May 2008, when one of his Triptychs sold for $86.3m (£55m) - the most ever spent on a work by the British artist.

The vast three-panelled allegorical painting easily topped its pre-sale estimate of $70m.

It was reportedly brought by Roman Abramovich, just 24 hours after he had purchased Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping for $33.6m.

Portrait of Dr Gachet - Vincent Van Gogh

Auction Phone bidding has become an essential part of any auction

One of two portraits of Van Gogh's doctor and friend reached a record price of $82.5m at a sale in New York in 1990, when it was acquired by a Japanese businessman.

Given that the auction took place more than 20 years ago, it remains the highest price ever paid for art at a public auction once adjusted for inflation.

Just days later, new owner Ryoei Saito went on buy Auguste Renoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette for $78.1m.

Mr Saito died in 1996. The painting is believed to have been sold privately but its whereabouts are currently unknown.

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