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Sotheby’s and Christie’s turned over a combined premium-inclusive total of £101.7m for their Part I evening sales, some £16m up on the equivalent events last year.

Selling rates also held firm, never dipping below 70 per cent at any of the main two houses’ Part I outings. Demand was, however, more patchy at de Pury & Luxembourg’s inaugural Impressionist and Modern art sale in London (total £11.9m) on June 24 at Claridge’s where Max Beckmann’s 1935 oil Five Women was knocked down well below estimate for £4.1m.

Star of the week was undoubtedly Picasso’s 1932 canvas of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Nu au collier, which sold at Christie’s on June 25 to the London private dealer Libby Howie for £14.5m, making it the most expensive work of art sold at auction in the world this year.

The previous evening Sotheby’s had achieved another significant eight-figure price in their Impressionist and Modern sale when a private bidder in the room gave £12.25m for Monet’s 1906 Nymphéas.

Recent losses on the world’s stock market also failed to deter buyers of contemporary art, though there was a noticeable cooling in the market for photography and younger British artists. Sotheby’s total of £11.8m for their June 26 evening sale was their highest since 1990 – helped by the £1.8m paid by Dickinson-Roundell for Gerhard Richter’s Study for Clouds, Green-Blue, while Christie’s £8.7m combined Post-War and Contemporary sale the following evening, albeit lacking major-name masterworks, nonetheless improved on the £6.8m achieved by the two categories last June.

“It could have gone a lot worse,” observed one leading London dealer.