Christie’s announces record-breaking sales of £3bn

AUCTION house Christie’s notched up £3.3bn of sales in 2010 – the highest total in its 244-year history – as the art market continued to defy the global slump.

It was a year of record-breaking firsts for the auctioneer, with global sales up by 53 per cent.

Pablo Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust fetched a staggering £70.3m – setting a new world record for an artwork sold at auction.

James Christie, who founded the auction house in 1766, wanted to capitalise on London’s new status as the pre-eminent centre for trading art in the wake of the French Revolution.

Now the balance of power in the art world is shifting again, this time from West to East.

Last year, revenues at the Christie’s sales centres in Continental Europe and the UK grew by nine per cent to £.1.bn.

But in Asia and the Middle East, sales soared by 116 per cent to £498.7m. The Paris centre saw sales drop 63 per cent while revenues at the Dubai auction house were up 147 per cent.

Christie’s says that a handful of high-net worth buyers account for most of the Asian market, but that this is changing as more Asians join the ranks of the wealthy.

The change is also reflected in tastes. Asian art, which accounted for £569.6m of global sales, is now more popular than Old Masters and 19th Century Art, which fetched £150.9m.

Still, 20th Century American artworks continued to dominate the top ten lots in 2010.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Ohhh... Alright... (pictured far left) sold for £26.4m while Jasper Johns’ Flag (centre) fetched £19.5m. And one New York buyer paid £15m for Andy Warhol’s Big Campbell’s Soup Can with Can Opener (Vegetable) (pictured near left).