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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Impressionist and modern art attracted strong prices for a second consecutive day on Wednesday as global bidding helped drive Sotheby's spring sale to over $195 million.
Early signs the art market was well on the road to recovery after plunging in 2008 were borne out when the auction house took in $195,697,000 including commission, or some three times the take at its Impressionist sale just a year ago.
Sotheby's officials said international bidding from Asia, South America, the Middle East as well as Europe and the United States, was deep and active. Most lots sold within or above the estimates.
"It's a global market with global liquidity," said Tobias Meyer, who served as auctioneer.
"Art is something that is now globally desired, and that was very much in evidence tonight," he said.
Emmanuel di Donna, vice chairman for Impressionist and modern art, said, "The trend toward the globalization of the market is continuing."
"There are a lot of truly wealthy people around the world who want the best," he said. "There is a real quest for quality."
The sale, led by Matisse's "Bouquet de fleurs pour le Quatorze Juillet" which fetched $28.64 million, totaled just under the high estimate of $204 million.
Records were set for Salvador Dali and Isamu Noguchi, whose sculpture "Undine" soared to $4.2 million, or nearly five times the high estimate of $900,000.
Sotheby's, aware that rival Christie's had secured the season's star estate collection, kept its estimates conservative, and the strategy paid off handsomely with an impressive 88 percent of the 57 lots on offer finding buyers.
Sculpture in particular did well, with one of Rodin's seminal "Thinker" bronzes fetching $11.8 million, nearly twice the high estimate.
A Picasso being sold by Christopher Lawford, son of actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, sold for $9.3 million.
Other highlights included Monet's "Effet de Printemps a Giverny," which sold for $15.2 million, and Modigliani's portrait "Jeanne Hebuterne au collier," which fetched $13.8 million.
On Tuesday, Christie's set the world art auction record for a single work when Picasso's "Nude, green leaves and bust" from the Brody collection sold for $106.5 million.
The auctions continue next week with sales of contemporary and postwar art.
Editing by Peter Cooney