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Some of the works were back in the saleroom after less than a decade, but vendors were betting that today’s audience of American hedge-fund billionaires and Russian oligarchs (who had been treated to a private view of highlights in Moscow) represents the art market’s biggest and best ever buying pool. For example New York dealer William Acquavella considered it the right moment to sell the 1895 Cézanne still life he had bought at Christie’s King Street six years ago for £11m. Sotheby’s ‘guaranteed’ it would bring more than $30m and the risk appeared to pay off when it sold at $33m (£18.2m).

Modigiliani’s Le fils du concierge, a 1918 portrait of a boy that had sold well below estimate for $5m at Christie’s in May 1997, prompted a remarkable bidding battle, selling to Zurich dealer Doris Ammann for $27.75m (£15.3m), far above its $18m high estimate.