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David Hockney's painting Beverly Hills Housewife drew fierce bidding and sold for nearly $8 million US at the Christie's post-war and contemporary art auction in New York on Wednesday. ((Frank Franklin II/Associated Press))

Fierce bidding pushed the price for David Hockney's painting Beverly Hills Housewife up to nearly $8 million US at a Christie's auction in New York Wednesday.

The 3.6-metre-by-1.8-metre double canvas, one of 20 contemporary artworks from the collection of late Los Angeles arts patron Betty Freeman, sold for $7.9 million US (about $8.9 million Cdn and including auction house commission), Christie's officials said.

Hockney's previous record was the 2006 London sale of his 1966 swimming pool painting The Splash for $5.4 million US.

Completed between 1966 and 1967, Hockney's painting depicts Freeman in a pink dress, standing on the patio of her California home. The painting of Freeman, who died in January at the age of 87, was considered among the highlights of Wednesday's post-war and contemporary art sale.

Altogether, 18 of the 20 works from Freeman's estate were sold. The names of the buyers were not released.

Beverly Hills Housewife was one of the California Dreaming series British pop art pioneer Hockney created in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.

Other works sold Wednesday included:

  • The Claes Oldenburg sculpture Typewriter Eraser ($2.2 million US, or about $2.47 million Cdn).
  • Roy Lichtenstein's Frolic ($6 million US or about $6.75 million Cdn).
  • Richard Diebenkorn's Ocean Park No. 117 ($2.8 million US or about $3.15 million Cdn).  
  • Peter Doig's landscape Night Fishing ($4.7 million US or about $5.3 million Cdn).
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat's Mater ($5.9 million US or about $6.64 million Cdn).

Economic troubles worldwide have softened the international art auction market, but there is still desire for high-quality works, according to auction house officials.

"The results show there is continued readiness to compete for rare and high-quality works, especially from estates, museums and private collections," said Marc Porter, president of Christie's Americas.

The evening's overall tally was $93.7 million ($105 million Cdn), within its conservative pre-sale estimate for the entire sale but less than one-third of what the Christie's post-war and contemporary art sale achieved a year ago. Of the 54 lots on offer, five works failed to find buyers.

With files from The Associated Press