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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Auction house Phillips de Pury invited an outsider to curate their "Carte Blanche" contemporary art sale in New York this week, and the experiment paid off with the company's biggest ever auction.
Private art adviser and former Christie's employee Philippe Segalot directed the inaugural Carte Blanche sale, which took place at the auctioneer's new Park Avenue salesroom in New York late on Monday.
Andy Warhol's "Men in Her Life" (1962) fetched an impressive $63.4 million, helping to boost the overall tally on the night to $137 million.
It was the second-highest price ever paid for a Warhol at auction, after the $71.7 million paid at Christie's in 2007 for "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)."
The main part of the sale overseen by Segolat fetched $117 million, higher than expected, while the second part of lesser works raised $20 million, below estimates.
"It was a real pleasure to work closely with Philippe Segalot who with the debut of Carte Blanche has created a milestone for a new type of auction," said Simon de Pury, chairman of the Russian-controlled Phillips de Pury & Company.
"I'm thrilled with what is the most successful auction in the history of the company and our greatest night ever."
Overall the sale has been seen by the art market as a positive indicator heading into another key week of auctions in New York, the center of the contemporary art world.
Christie's and Sotheby's have yet to hold their main sales, which are expected to underline the strength of the recovery after a sharp slump caused by the global financial crisis.
Christie's is offering Warhol's "Big Campbell's Soup Can With Can Opener (Vegetable)," expected to fetch as much as $50 million. Its owner, Seattle collector Barney Ebsworth, recently said he had never sold any works before nor even considered it.
Sotheby's has its own food-package Warhol, a Coca-Cola bottle expected to hit up to $25 million.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato