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Günter Brus’ untitled painting from 1961 – €750,000 (£646,550) at Ressler. Photo: Klaus-Dieter Weber.

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He had tried to walk through the centre of Vienna, painted from head to toe in white with a black band across his body, but was soon stopped by the police for creating a public nuisance.

Purchasable paintings from this time are snapped up by Austrian collectors, including an untitled work from 1961, painted on cotton calico cloth, measuring 7ft 4in x 7ft 10in (2.23 x 2.4m), that caused a major stir at Ressler Kunstauktionen (25% buyer’s premium) on May 10 in Vienna.

The auction house was expecting €75,000, but the guide was quickly passed by a number of bidders, including two Austrian museums and an art dealer, bidding on behalf of a collector. After one of the museums dropped out, it was left to the other two contenders to fight it out.

Eventually, the dealer won the day, but only by bidding €750,000 (£646,550), which is the highest auction price worldwide for an Austrian Contemporary artist.

To lessen the disappointment of one of his underbidders, the new owner has offered to loan the painting for a Brus exhibition this autumn.