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LONDON (Reuters) - Christie's sold a Francis Bacon triptych for 26.3 million pounds ($51.7 million) late on Wednesday, the highest price paid at a European auction for a post-war work, and narrowly short of the artist's record.
"Triptych 1974-77" was part of the auctioneer's contemporary and post-war art sale which further underlined the resilience of the art market amid concerns that tumbling equities, a weak dollar and fears of a U.S. recession might hit demand.
Overall the sale fetched 72.9 million pounds, the second highest total for a Christie's contemporary and post-war sale held in London.
"Throughout the sale, we saw active participation from American clients who bid competitively alongside other international collectors," said Pilar Ordovas, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's London.
She added that the auction demonstrated "the underlying, continued strength of the market."
The impressionist and modern art auctions at Christie's and Sotheby's in London earlier in the week both exceeded their expected totals.
Christie's said the price paid for Irish-born Bacon's work, which was painted in response to the suicide of his lover George Dyer, made it the most expensive work of art ever sold by Christie's in London.
The record for the artist stands at 26.6 million pounds for "Study from Innocent X, 1962" sold by Sotheby's in New York in May, 2007.
Sotheby's is also offering Bacon's "Study of a Nude with Figure in a Mirror" on February 27, when the painting is expected to sell for 18-25 million pounds.
Further highlights at the Christie's sale included "Zwei Liebespaare" by Germany's Gerhard Richter that sold for 7.3 million pounds, a new world record for the artist.
Editing by Richard Balmforth