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Originally published February 3, 2010 at 10:07 PM | Page modified February 4, 2010 at 9:28 AM

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104 Million-Dollar Man: Sculpture sets auction record

A life-size bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacometti was sold in London Wednesday night to an unknown bidder for $104.3 million, breaking the record for a work of art purchased at auction.

The New York Times

A life-size bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacometti was sold in London Wednesday night to an unknown bidder for $104.3 million, breaking the record for a work of art purchased at auction.

It took just eight minutes of bidding for about 10 bidders to reach the hammer price for "Walking Man I," which opened at slightly more than $19 million, Sotheby's auction house said.

The mystery buyer bid by phone, and as the price kept rising, the bidding narrowed to two phone contenders bidding via a couple of Sotheby's employees.

The previous record was $104.1 million, for a 1905 Pablo Picasso, "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)," at Sotheby's in New York in 2004.

Sotheby's had expected the sculpture to bring $19.2 million to $28.8 million.

The 6-foot-tall sculpture was cast in 1961 in an edition of six. The work by the 20th century Swiss-Italian artist, known for his depiction of postwar European existential angst, is one of the most recognizable images of modern art.

"Walking Man I" was sold by Dresdner Bank in Germany, which had acquired it in 1980.

It had been commissioned — along with a group of others bronzes — by the architect Gordon Bunshaft for Chase Manhattan Plaza in downtown Manhattan, where it was to stand alongside Bunshaft's 60-story glass-and-steel Chase headquarters.

Although the installation was never realized, some of the sculptures — and others Giacometti created as experiments for the project — were made; many, though, he destroyed.

The Giacometti was not the only work to fetch a high price at Sotheby's on Wednesday evening. A 1913 landscape by Gustav Klimt, "Church in Cassone — Landscape With Cypresses," brought $43.2 million from another telephone bidder.

Additional information from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press

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