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Artist Peter Doig’s painting sets new record at auction

Swamped by Peter Doig.

CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD.

A vibrant, multi-hued painting from Pablo Picasso set a world record for artwork at auction, selling for nearly $179.4-million (U.S.) on Monday night. Women of Algiers (Version O) was part of a sale at Christie's auction house that also featured Alberto Giacometti's life-size sculpture Pointing Man, which set a record as the most expensive sculpture sold at auction, at $141.3-million. They were among two dozen masterpieces from the 20th century Christie's offered in a curated sale titled Looking Forward to the Past. The Picasso price, $179,365,000, and the Giacometti price, $141,285,000, included the auction house's premium. The identities of the buyers weren't immediately disclosed.

Women of Algiers, once owned by the American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, was inspired by Picasso's fascination with the 19th-century French artist Eugène Delacroix. It is part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It has appeared in several major museum retrospectives of the artist.

The most expensive artwork sold at auction had been Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which Christie's sold for $142.4-million in 2013.

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Also Monday, an eerie 1991 painting of a moonlit white canoe with a figure slumped in its hull fetched almost $26-million (U.S.), a new world record for the artist, Peter Doig, 56, who spent most of his early years in Canada.

Canoes have been a significant and highly regarded part of Doig's iconography, prompting expectations before Christie's auction that Swamped, inspired in part by a scene from the 1980 horror film, Friday the 13th, would be a record-setter. Christie's published no estimate for the painting in its catalogue, but officials with the company indicated Monday afternoon it was about $20-million (U.S.), or $24-million (Canadian).

The tally for the Monday sale includes the buyer's premium of close to $3-million, a commission charged by the auction house to the winner who, in this case, placed his bid by telephone. Swamped, one of 35 lots up for bidding, also established Doig as the most valuable living British artist in the resale market. The previous record-holder was Damien Hirst, whose bullock-in-formaldehyde installation, The Golden Calf, sold for £10.3-million in 2008. That's $16.1-million (U.S.) in today's currency.

With a report from James Adams in Toronto

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