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'Meules' by Claude Monet – $97m (£75.2m) at Sotheby’s New York.

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Sotheby’s posted a record for an Impressionist with a painting from Claude Monet’s ‘haystacks’ series while Jeff Koon’s Rabbit at Christie’s became the joint-highest price for a living artist.

The sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips generated an overall premium-inclusive total of $2.05bn (£1.59bn). The equivalent sales in May 2018 totalled $1.98bn, lifted by the lucrative Rockefeller collection at Christie’s.

Price stacks up

Monet’s Meules from 1890, a 2ft 5in x 3ft 1in (73 x 93cm) oil on canvas, was one of 25 works in the haystacks series, of which eight remain in private ownership. Another picture of the same size and subject had sold at Christie’s New York in November 2016 for $72.5m (£58m) but Sotheby’s said its picture, which was estimated ‘in excess of $55m’ at an evening sale on May 14, was “the finest example from this celebrated series”.

Sotheby’s had arranged an ‘irrevocable bid’ from a third party, guaranteeing it would sell on the night. It drew a lengthy bidding before it was finally knocked down to an unidentified woman in the room at $97m (£75.2m).

The price, as well as breaking the record for Monet – previously held by Nymphéas en fleur from c.1914-17 which sold for $84.7m (£62.4m) including premium at Christie’s sale of the Rockefeller collection – was a new high for any Impressionist picture. The sum also ranked as the eighth in the list of all-time highest auction prices.

Koons hops to it

At Christie’s post-war and Contemporary art evening sale the following night, Koons’ stainless steel Rabbit sculpture was bid to $80m (£62.02m) against a $50m-70m estimate.

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Jeff Koons’ Rabbit – $80m (£62.02m) at Christie’s.

The hammer price matched that achieved in November for David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), although the fact that the auction house has since raised its buyer’s fees meant that the premium-inclusive price for the Koons was greater.

The 3ft 5in (1.04m) high sculpture came to auction from the collection of the late media baron Samuel Irving ‘SI’ Newhouse Jr, which also provided Christie’s with its top lot in its Imps & Mods sales: Paul Cézanne’s (1839-1906) Bouilloire et fruits, sold to a phone buyer at $52m (£40.3m).