Giacometti breaks auction record at Sotheby's

Wed Feb 3, 2010 5:53pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A bronze statue by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti broke the record for a work of art at auction on Wednesday, selling for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) at Sotheby's in London.

The price, which includes buyer's premium, just eclipsed Picasso's "Garcon a la Pipe," which fetched $104.2 million in New York in 2004.

The life-size "L'homme qui marche I" (Walking Man I) was the first time a Giacometti figure of a walking man on such a large scale had come to auction in over 20 years, and its hammer price was around four times the auctioneer's pre-sale expectations.

The statue was sold by German banking firm Commerzbank AG, which acquired it when it took over Dresdner Bank in 2009. Dresdner acquired the sculpture in 1980.

The record was reached in just eight minutes of "fast and furious" bidding, according to Sotheby's, with at least 10 potential purchasers battling it out for the rare work in a hushed sale room.

Sotheby's did not identify the buyer, saying only that it was an anonymous telephone bidder.

The result confirms what recent auction results had already suggested -- that the art market has recovered from a shaky year when the financial crisis hit prices as well as the volume of works changing hands, without causing a full-scale collapse.

KLIMT ALSO SHINES   Continued...

<p>A man walks next to "L'homme qui marche I" by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti at Sotheby's auction house in London in this January 12, 2010 file photograph. The statue has been sold for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) on Wednesday, a new record for any work of art sold at auction, according to Sotheby's. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>