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Koons, Bacon works sold at record-setting NYC auction

Sotheby's is resting easier on Thursday after registering the most lucrative contemporary and postwar art auction in its history, just a week after a disappointing showing at its Impressionist sale.

Sotheby's is resting easier on Thursday after registering the most lucrative contemporary and postwar art auction in its history, just a week after adisappointing showing at its Impressionist sale.

A large canvas by Francis Bacon led Wednesday evening's sale, with Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1 garnering the sale's top price of $46 million US (including commission).

Purchased by an unidentified U.S. dealer, the work had been pegged with a pre-sale estimate of $35 million.

Another Bacon work — the much smaller Self Portrait (1969) — sold to an anonymous phone bidder for $33.1 million US, doubling its pre-sale estimate of $15 million.

It was also a good night for U.S. artist Jeff Koons, whose stainless steel sculpture Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) sold for $23.6 million US. Officials had set a pre-sale estimate of $15 million-$20 million.

Not only didthe Koonssalesmash the artist's record high price set a day earlier at an auction by rival Christie's, it also became the highest-priced work by a living artist ever sold at auction — bestingthe record set in June with the London sale of Damian Hirst's mixed-media cabinet piece Lullaby Spring.

Premier Manhattan art dealer Larry Gagosian purchased both Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold) as well as Koons's Diamond (Blue), which Christie's sold on Tuesday.

The evening of enthusiastic bidding also resulted in the sale ofworks by the likes of Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor and several Chinese artists, with six of the total of 71 lots remaining unsold.

Overall, Sotheby's saw $315.9 million US of artwork cross the block.

Last week, a number of works by high-profile artists — including what was believed to be one of Vincent van Gogh's final canvases — failed to sell at a Sotheby's Impressionist auction, initially sparking worries that the roaring art market could be headed for a downturn.

With files from the Associated Press

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