LONDON – A life-size bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacometti was sold Wednesday at a London auction for $104.3 million — a world record for the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, Sotheby's auction house said.
It took just eight minutes of furious bidding for more than ten bidders to reach the hammer price for "L'Homme Qui Marche I" (Walking Man I), which opened at over $19 million, Sotheby's said.
The sculpture by the 20th century Swiss artist, considered an iconic Giacometti work as well as one of the most recognizable images of modern art, was sold to an anonymous bidder by telephone, the auction house said.
The sale price trumped the $104.17 million paid at a 2004 New York auction for Pablo Picasso's 1905 "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)." That painting broke the record that Vincent van Gogh had held since 1990, and its sale was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken.
"L'Homme Qui Marche I," a life-size sculpture of a thin and wiry human figure, "represents the pinnacle of Giacometti's experimentation with the human form" and is "both a humble image of an ordinary man, and a potent symbol of humanity," Sotheby's said.
The work was cast in 1961, in the artist's mature period. It is rare because it was the only cast of the walking man made during Giacometti's lifetime that has ever come to auction, Sotheby's said. It was bought by Dresdner Bank in the early 1980s.
The last time a Giacometti of comparable size was offered at auction was 20 years ago. That sculpture was sold for $6.82 million, a record for Giometti works at the time.