A 1932 Pablo Picasso painting of his mistress has sold for $106.5 million, a world record price for any work of art at auction.

“Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” which had a pre-sale estimate of between $70 million and $90 million, was sold at Christie’s auction house on Tuesday evening to an unidentified telephone bidder.

The Spanish master’s painting eclipses the record set in February, when Alberto Giacometti’s “Walking Man I” sculpture sold in London for 104.3 million.

The large, sensual painting auctioned Tuesday has been exhibited just once in public since 1961, and was a highlight of the collection of Frances Lasker Brody, a philanthropist from Los Angeles who died last year.

The sale marked the beginning of New York’s art auction season, and confirmed the renewed confidence of art dealers who said last week that the financial crisis was largely behind them.

Art experts were to be watching Tuesday’s auction closely for signs that the art market was indeed clawing its way back.

With Wall Street profits back from the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the auctions will feature a string of top-end works aimed at big-spending collectors.

The Brody collection also features works by Giacometti and Henri Matisse.

The NYTimes reported that Christie’s and Sotheby’s battled for four months to win the Brody sale, with the winner coming away after offering an undisclosed guaranteed sum to be paid to the sellers, whatever the result of the auction.

This revives a practice largely abandoned when the late 2008 financial meltdown hit the art market.

Sotheby’s may have missed out on the Brody collection but on Wednesday will sell a string of masterpieces including a Matisse called “Bouquet pour le 14 juillet 1919,” estimated at 18 to 25 million dollars.

Source: AFPrelaxnews