Picasso masterpiece sells for record-breaking $179 million

Pablo Picasso's Les femmes d'Alger Credit: Reuters

Two masterpieces have broken world records at an auction in New York, with a Picasso painting selling for $179.4 million (£115 million) and a creation by Alberto Giacometti setting the record for most expensive sculpture.

A telephone bidding war broke out at Christie's for Pablo Picasso's 1955 cubist work Les femmes d'Alger, or Women of Algiers (Version O), driving the price beyond estimates that it could sell for $140 million.

It eventually went under the hammer at $160 million, for a final price of $179,365,000 including Christie's commission of just over 12 percent.

Pablo Picasso's Les femmes d'Alger Credit: Reuters

The artwork beat the previous record for the most expensive painting bought at auction - Francis Bacon's triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which sold for $142.4 million at Christie's in November 2013.

The work, which was last auctioned in 1997, is believed to have been painted as a tribute to the artist's late friend Henri Matisse, who died in 1954.

It was followed by the sale of Giacometti's life-size Pointing Man, which fetched $141.3 million dollars (£90.7 million).

The 5-foot-high bronze figure had been in the same private collection for 45 years.

Giacometti made six casts of the work; four are in museums, and the others are in private hands and a foundation collection.

Alberto Giacometti's Pointing Man set a record for most expensive sculpture at $141.3 million Credit: Reuters

The buyers of Giacometti's piece and Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers (Version O) have chosen to remain anonymous.

Also at Christie's, British artist Peter Doig' Swamped, a 1990 painting of a canoe in a moonlit lagoon, fetched almost $26 million (£16.6 million).

British artist Peter Doig's Swamped fetched almost $26 million Credit: PA

"I've never worked with two such beautiful objects," said Christie's global president, Jussi Pylkkanen, who auctioned the record-breaking artworks.

Overall, 34 of 35 lots sold for an auction total of $706 million.