NEW YORK (AP) — Records are meant to be broken, and they were with remarkable speed at Christie's auction house on Tuesday night.
In just six minutes, bids shot up to $142.4 million for a Francis Bacon triptych, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction. World auction records also were set for 10 artists.
More feverish bidding is expected Wednesday night when a provocative double-panel painting by Andy Warhol comes up at Sotheby's. "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)" is expected to fetch as much as $80 million, which would set a record for the pop artist.
"The demand for seminal works by historical important artists is truly unquestionable and we will keep witnessing new records being broken," said Michael Frahm, a contemporary art adviser and partner at the London-based Frahm Ltd. "This is the ultimate trophy hunting."
The atmosphere at the standing-room-only sale of postwar and contemporary art was electric as a handful of collectors vied for Bacon's 1967 "Three Studies of Lucian Freud." Bidding rapidly soared above the nearly $120 million paid for Edvard Munch's "The Scream" at a Sotheby's sale in 2012, replacing the iconic work as the most expensive artwork sold at auction.
The price included the buyer's premium.
Christie's said the winning bid went to Acquavella Galleries. It is believed that the Manhattan gallery was buying it for an unidentified client.
One of the underbidders, Hong Gyu Shin, an art dealer with a gallery in lower Manhattan, told reporters he loved the work and wanted to buy it for himself.
Another marquee work, which broke a world auction record for a living artist, was Jeff Koons' "Balloon Dog (Orange)." The 10-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture of what looks like a child's twisted party balloon sold for $58.4 million to an anonymous telephone bidder. It was sold by newsprint magnate Peter Brant to benefit his Brant Foundation Art Study in Greenwich, Conn.
It is one of five Koons balloon dogs executed in different colors. All are in private hands.
Wednesday night's sale at Sotheby's rounds out the two-week fall auction season.
Its Warhol "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)" is one of four paintings in the artist's "Death and Disaster" series. The other three are in museums.
Measuring 8 feet by 13 feet, the 1963 work captures the immediate aftermath of a car crash, a twisted body sprawled across its mangled interior. It has been seen in public only once in the past 26 years.
Among other iconic Warhols at Sotheby's is a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, titled "Liz #1 (Early Colored Liz)," estimated to fetch between $20 million and $30 million.
Sotheby's also has a Willem De Kooning painting that is estimated to sell for up to $35 million. "Untitled V" is an abstract work of reds, yellows and whites not seen in public since 1980.
On Tuesday, Christie's sold De Kooning's 1977 "Untitled VIII," for more than $32 million, establishing a world auction record for the artist.
"This is simply another proof of the huge amount of liquidity pumped into the world economy," said Richard Feigen, an art dealer and collector whose Manhattan gallery, Richard L. Feigen & Co., has works spanning from the 14th century to contemporary art. "The money has nowhere to go. The interest rates are so low that it gets laundered through the real estate, and to a lesser degree, art markets."
Trophy hunters and buyers from Asia, the Middle East and Russia play a big role in the contemporary art market, Feigen said.
Christie's said Tuesday's sale brought in more than $691.5 million, the highest total for any single auction in history.
"The sales sum up the state of the current market, which is very solid and price healthy at the top end of the market and less active and more volatile for mid-market works," Frahm said.