London Underground poster designed by Man Ray
A 1938 poster for the London Underground designed by Man Ray and produced for London Transport which sold for a hammer price of $120,000 (£88,890) at Swann Auction Galleries on May 3. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

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It took a sale-topping $120,000 (£88,890) hammer price, or $149,000 including premium.

The 3ft 3in x 2ft (2m x 63cm) poster with the legend Keeps London Going is the Surrealist artist’s take on the London transport system, comparing its familiar logo to a Saturn-like planet in space, and is executed in the artist’s trademark ‘Rayograph’ photographic style.

The winning bid in the sale on May 3 was made by a dealer after a battle between three phones. It was at the upper end of the estimate and was well in excess of the previous auction high for the poster of £42,000 hammer (then around $84,000), paid at Christie’s South Kensington in June 2007.

Two of the other highest prices in the sale were for earlier posters designed by members of the Vienna Secession group. One, measuring 3ft 1in x 15.5in (94.5 x 39.5cm), dating from 1902, was by Alfred Röller, a prolific poster designer, and advertises the group’s 14th exhibition dedicated to Beethoven. It topped the $30,000-40,000 guide to take $44,000 (£32,590).

The other, measuring 3ft x 2ft (96 x 62cm), was designed by Koloman Moser in 1899 to promote Fromme’s pocket calendars and sold for a lower-estimate $20,000 (£14,815).

Koloman Moser

A 1899 poster for Fromme’s calendars, designed by Koloman Moser - $20,000 (£14,815) at Swann Auction Galleries on May 3. Image courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.