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Hockney's 'Housewife' sells for record US$7.9m

David Hockney's painting "Beverly Hills Housewife" sold for a record US$7.9 million after fierce bidding - a sign that collectors are eager to buy rare and high-quality works despite the recession, the Christie's auction house said.

A Claes Oldenburg sculpture, "Typewriter Eraser," from 1976, also set a record, selling for US$2.2 million at the auction of post-war and contemporary art on Wednesday night in New York.

The previous record for a Hockney painting was US$5.4 million for "The Splash," sold in 2006 at Sotheby's.

The 4 meter-long, 2 meter-high painting had been estimated to fetch from US$7 million to US$10 million.

The 20 contemporary artworks from the estate of Los Angeles arts patron Betty Freeman, who died in January at age 87, were the highlight of the auction.

Hockney painted "Beverly Hills Housewife" from 1966 to 1967. The painting by one of Britain's most popular artists shows Freeman in a pink dress standing on the patio of her California home.

Christie's said 18 of the 20 artworks from the Freeman estate sold for a total of US$31.6 million, in range with an earlier estimate of US$24 million to US$37 million. Bidding failed to reach the reserve price for two of the works.

The uncertain economic climate has softened parts of the art auction market. But Christie's said 30 of the 54 lots offered on Wednesday sold for more than US$1 million.

The strong sales are "a clear and resounding vote of confidence in the market from a deep pool of collectors around the world, competing for almost every lot in the sale," said Marc Porter, president of Christie's Americas. "The results show there is continued readiness to compete for rare and high-quality works, especially from estates, museums and private collections."

Christie's didn't reveal the identities of the buyers at the sale, whose final prices included commissions paid to the auction house.


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