A prized 1963 Andy Warhol painting that captures the immediate aftermath of a car crash has sold for US$105 million (NZ$126.5 million) at a New York City auction, shattering the record for the famed pop artist amid a spending frenzy at the high end of the art world.
The 8- by 13-foot painting titled Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) depicts a twisted body sprawled across a car's mangled interior. It has only been seen once in public in the past 26 years. The buyer wasn't immediately identified.
The previous Warhol auction record was set in 2007 when Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) sold for US$71.7 million.
Another iconic Warhol, Coca-Cola (3), sold for US$57.2 million Tuesday at Christie's auction house, and his portrait of Elizabeth Taylor titled Liz (hash)1 (Early Colored Liz) sold for US$20 million on Wednesday.
A Willem de Kooning abstract painting in red, yellow and white called "Untitled V," not seen in public since 1980, sold for US$24.8 million Wednesday. The sale fell short of the record for the artist's works, set Tuesday at Christie's with the sale of his Untitled VIII from 1977.
None of today's buyers were identified.
The Warhol record came just a day after the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction went for US$142.4 million to conclude six minutes of feverish bidding at Christie's. The hefty price tag for a 1967 Francis Bacon triptych called Three Studies of Lucian Freud shattered the previous world record - nearly $120 million paid for Edvard Munch's The Scream at a 2012 Sotheby's sale.
Christie's said the winning bid went to New York City's Acquavella Galleries. It is believed that the gallery was buying it for an unidentified client.
Over the past 10 days, auction houses around the world have presided over bids totaling nearly US$2 billion for art and jewelry, Sotheby's said. Christie's said on Tuesday's sale brought in more than US$691.5 million, the highest total for any single auction in history.
Buyers from Asia, the Middle East and Russia play a big role in the contemporary art market, said Richard Feigen, an art dealer and collector whose Manhattan gallery has works spanning from the 14th century to contemporary art.
"The demand for seminal works by historical important artists is truly unquestionable, and we will keep witnessing new records being broken," said Michael Frahm, a contemporary art adviser and partner at the London-based Frahm Ltd.
"This is the ultimate trophy hunting."