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Signs of a renewed confidence in the market following anti-trust and September 11 were witnessed on May 7 and 8 when Christie’s and Sotheby’s had their most successful Impressionist and Modern sales in New York for some time.

On May 14 the top two lots came from the collection of Lars Ulrich, drummer and songwriter for heavy metal band Metallica. The better of the two, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Profit 1, an acrylic and spray paint on canvas, went to an anonymous buyer for a record $5m (£3.5m) and Pairs Montparnasse, a 1961 oil by Jean Dubuffet, took $4.3m (£3.04m) from the US trade.

Records were also achieved for Ed Ruscha’s Talk about Space, an anonymous buy at $3.2m (£2.3m), and Louise Bourgeois’s Blind Man’s Bluff, for which a US institution paid $1.3m (£922,000).

Andy Warhol was the toast of Sotheby’s on May 15. Five
of the top ten sellers were by the innovative artist whom Sotheby’s New York director of Contemporary art Lauren Paulson called, “one of the greatest artists of the 20th

Best of the Warhol’s was Five Deaths, an acrylic and silkscreen on canvas bought from the artist in 1986, which saw $3.4m (£2.4m) from a US private.

Topping the 60 lots at Sotheby’s on May 15, which brought $38.2m (£27.1m), was Gerhard Richter’s 180 Farben. The lacquer on primed canvas went anonymously at $3.6m (£2.5m).

Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg made up for their absence from the Impressionist and Modern sales with a $26.8m (£19m) sale of 53 lots which included an envied collection of 14 Duchamp readymades.

Francis Bacon’s Study for portrait of Henrietta Moraes took the top honours at $6.1m (£4.3m) and the best of the Duchamp’s was Bicycle Wheel which fell slightly below its
bottom estimate to bring $1.6m (£1.1m).
Exchange rate £1=$1.41