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Giacometti sculpture sells in UK for record $104M

Updated: 2010-02-04 15:24
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Giacometti sculpture sells in UK for record $104M

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 photo. 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. [Agencies]

LONDON: A bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacometti has sold for 65 million pounds ($104.3 million) - making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, Sotheby's auction house said.

It took just eight minutes of furious bidding Wednesday for about ten bidders to reach the hammer price for "L'Homme Qui Marche I" (Walking Man I), which opened at 12 million pounds, Sotheby's said.

The sculpture by the 20th century Swiss artist, considered an iconic Giacometti work as well as one of the most recognizable images of modern art, was sold to an anonymous bidder by telephone, the auction house said.

Sotheby's had estimated the work would sell for between 12 to 18 million pounds.

The sale price trumped the $104.17 million paid at a 2004 New York auction for Pablo Picasso's 1905 "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)." That painting broke the record that Vincent van Gogh had held since 1990, and its sale was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken.

"It's a phenomenal result ... I think the result pretty much reflects the depth of the market," Helena Newman, a specialist of Impressionist and Modern art at Sotheby's, told the BBC.

The price for the sculpture went up rapidly with keen interest from bidders calling in from Europe, Asia and the US, Newman said.

"L'Homme Qui Marche I," a life-size sculpture of a thin and wiry human figure standing 72 inches (183 centimeters) tall , "represents the pinnacle of Giacometti's experimentation with the human form" and is "both a humble image of an ordinary man, and a potent symbol of humanity," Sotheby's said.

The work was cast in 1961 in the artist's mature period. It is rare because it was the only cast of the walking man made during Giacometti's lifetime that has ever come to auction, Sotheby's said. It was bought by Dresdner Bank in the early 1980s.

The last time a Giacometti of comparable size was offered at auction was 20 years ago. That sculpture was sold for $6.82 million, a record for Giacometti works at the time.