NEW YORK - A Picasso masterpiece and a Giacometti statue smashed world records Monday for the most expensive art sold at auction, fetching more than US$179 million (S$239 million) and US$141 million respectively in New York.
Pablo Picasso oil painting, "The Women of Algiers (Version 0)," sold for US$179,365,000 after 11 and a half minutes of furious bidding from four to five prospective buyers at Christie's, where two auction rooms were packed.
It was the highest price for any work of art sold at auction, Christie's said, but fell short of the US$300 million reportedly paid privately by Qatar for Paul Gauguin's painting "When Will You Marry?" in February.
Applause erupted when auctioneer and global president of Christie's Jussi Pylkkanen finalized the Picasso sale having cut through the frenzied excitement of the bidding war with laughter and jokes.
Just minutes later, the bronze statue by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti "Man Pointing" broke the record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, fetching US$141.285 million.
Other world auction records were set for works by artists Cady Noland, Jean Dubuffet, Diane Arbus, Chaim Soutine and Peter Doig, Christie's said.
The auction house listed the buyers as anonymous but said clients from Asia, the Gulf, Russia, Europe and the United States had competed for the top 10 lots of the sale.
Overall, bidders came from 35 different countries, it said.
Exponential growth in the art market, particularly for modern and contemporary works, is attributed to a growing number of private investors around the world and burgeoning interest in Asia and the Gulf.
The previous world record for an artwork sold at auction was US$142.4 million, set for British painter Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," which was sold by Christie's in New York in 2013.
Giacometti had also held the previous record for the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, formerly occupied by his "Walking Man I" that fetched US$104.3 million in London in 2010.