U.S. buyers drive Christie's $350 million modern art sale

Wed May 14, 2008 8:03am EDT
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By Christopher Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Lucian Freud painting sold for $33.64 million at Christie's art auction on Tuesday, shattering the record for a piece by a living artist.

The British painter's 1995 portrait of a nude woman sleeping on a sofa, "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping," sold for just under its high presale estimate of $35 million.

The previous record of $23.6 million was set last November for a Jeff Koons sculpture, "Hanging Heart."

Contemporary art sold strongly, defying erratic financial markets at a $350 million auction marked by a surprising preponderance of American buying.

Records fell for seven other artists as well.

"It was stupendous," said Christie's contemporary and postwar art international co-head Amy Cappellazzo, noting it was Christie's second-best contemporary result.

The sale's total was just above the midrange of its presale estimate.

"So much for the weak dollar," Cappellazzo quipped after the auction. U.S. buyers snapped up 70 percent of the $348,263,600 worth of art sold, while Europeans bought nearly all the rest.   Continued...