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Sculpture sells for record $104.3 million

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A bronze sculpture of a man walking sold for $104.3 million at auction in London, setting a new world record for the highest price paid for a work of art, Sotheby's said Thursday.

"L'homme qui marche I," by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, was bought by an anonymous bidder who paid nearly three times the expected price, according to the auction house.

5 most expensive pieces of art
A bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti was auctioned for a record $104.3 million this week. Here are the 5 most expensive works of art ever sold on the block.

"The price is a reflection of the extraordinary importance of this exceptionally rare work, and the only life-time cast of this iconic subject ever to have come to auction," said Helena Newman, vice chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art department worldwide.

The previous record holder was Pablo Picasso's "Garçon à la Pipe," which was auctioned for $104.1 million in 2004.

Picasso's "Dora Maar au chat," which sold for $95.2 million in 2006, holds the title for third highest auction price. That is followed by Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, II" at $87.9 million and Francis Bacon's "Tryptic" at $86.3 million.

Sotheby's said the bidding for Giacometti's walking man, which opened at $19 million, became heated after about eight minutes, with a "fast and furious bidding battle between at least ten prospective purchasers."

The life-size bronze statue, cast in 1961, was previously owned by German-based Commerzbank, which acquired it when it took over the corporate collection of Dresdner Bank in 2009.

Commerzbank intends to use the sale proceeds to strengthen the resources of its new Foundation Center, and also to provide funds to their partner museums for restoration work and educational programs, Sotheby's said.

In addition to the Giacometti, Sotheby's said Gustav Klimt's "Kirche in Cassone" was auctioned for $43.2 million. It was a record auction price for a landscape painting by the popular Austrian artist and was well above the expected price range of between $19 million and $28 million.

The oil painting of a church in Cassone, Italy, had originally been in the collection of a wealthy Austrian iron magnate. It disappeared during World War II, possibly taken by Nazis or Soviet soldiers, and resurfaced decades later.

The Klimt was sold under an agreement with Georges Jorisch, the 81-year-old great nephew of the original owner, and the European private collector in whose family the painting had been for several years.

The sale was one of a growing number of cases in which Holocaust survivors and their descendents have worked to recover artwork looted by Nazis during the war.

"Today's sale closes a long-open chapter in my life in which I recover a part of my forbears' legacy and pass it on to future generations, just as my parents would have wished," Jorisch said. To top of page

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