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The figures crown a year in which the firm have held 633 sales, with more than 340 works of art selling for over $1m.

It was clear that Christie’s would return an impressive set of year-end figures after a raft of high-performance sales, culminating in November’s New York Contemporary art series, whose three sessions racked up a premium-inclusive $212.1m (£121.9m) – their highest totals ever for post-War and Contemporary art.

Even their Old Master sale in London on December 8 brought some strong bidding to what had been seen, for some time, as a soft market. At a total of £16.5m, it showed that it is still possible to make high returns in this field.

Meanwhile, the boom in Russian pictures saw Christie’s take a premium-inclusive £22m at their London sale on November 30.

Another scalp was the highest price paid for any work of art at auction this year, which they achieved when an exceptionally rare blue and white porcelain jar dating from the Yuan dynasty sold for £15.7m in July in London – a world record price for any Asian work of art ever sold at auction.

Christie’s are now hoping to build on these successes with a new International Modern and Contemporary Art sale at the Emirates Tower Hotel in Dubai on May 24.

Sotheby’s, who have yet to publish their year-end figures – and who have also enjoyed notable successes in 2005 – give a clearer view of company performance as a publicly listed company. Privately owned Christie’s do not reveal details of their margins, but even taking into account what is thought to be a heavy investment in their battle for market share, owner François Pinault must be happier about his auction industry interests than he has been for some time.

“2005 was the best year Christie’s has ever had, both in terms of sales and profitability,” said chief executive Edward Dolman. “Our aim is to continue to be the most efficient, innovative and exciting art business in the world and we are to making the necessary investments to achieve this. In an increasingly global market, Christie’s intends to consolidate its position and seize new opportunities, not only geographically but also in terms of collecting fields.”