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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Contemporary and Italian art sales in London last week largely underlined the sense that stability was gradually returning to a market that saw values soar in 2007 and 2008 before tumbling dramatically in 2009.
Sotheby's raised a combined 30.4 million pounds ($48.8 million) from its contemporary and Italian 20th century art sales on Friday, and added a further 9.7 million pounds from its contemporary day auction on Saturday.
The overall tally of 40.1 million pounds was toward the top end of pre-sale expectations and roughly double the amount raised from the equivalent sales in 2009.
Sotheby's called the results "remarkably strong," capitalizing on the presence of the international art world in London for the annual Frieze Art Fair and accompanying exhibitions, auctions and receptions.
Two Lucio Fontana works -- different-colored versions of "Concetto Spaziale, Attese" -- both fetched 2.3 million pounds, and were the top lots at Sotheby's for the week.
Rival auction house Christie's held its sales a day earlier, and sold post-war and contemporary art worth 19.6 million pounds at its main evening sale, within expectations.
A major work by British artist Damien Hirst, "I am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds" measuring some five meters across, sold for 2.2 million pounds ($3.5 million) including buyer's premium, below pre-sale estimates of 2.5-3.5 million pounds.
But Christie's did boast the highest-valued lot of the series, with Marino Marini's equestrian bronze "Cavaliere" fetching 4.5 million pounds ($7.1 million), around three times expectations and a world record auction price for the artist.
This helped boost the Italian sale total to a record 18.6 million pounds, also within estimates.
Christie's day sale on Friday raised a further 7.0 million pounds.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Tim Pearce