New York: A painting by pop artist Andy Warhol, "200 One Dollar Bills," brought USD 43.8 million at auction, more than three times its highest presale estimate of USD 12 million.
The piece, one of Warhol`s first silk-screen paintings, sold at Sotheby`s on Wednesday evening. The auction house did not reveal the names of the buyer and seller.
Bidding for the seminal work was spirited and fast. Auctioneer Tobias Meyer opened bidding at USD 6 million, which was immediately doubled. Five more people in the room jumped in, competing until a phone bidder was declared the winner.
The current record for a Warhol is USD 71.7 million for "Green Car Crash, sold at Christie`s in 2007.
Executed in 1962, the painting was once owned by taxi tycoon Robert C. Scull, who purchased it directly from Warhol`s dealer. The current owner bought it in 1986 for USD 385,000.
It was the highest price fetched at the Contemporary Art sale, which totaled USD 134.4 million, well above the high presale total of USD 97.7 million.
Other Warhol paintings also drew strong prices.
His 1965 "Self-Portrait," which the artist gave to Cathy Naso, a receptionist who worked at his Factory, sold for USD 6.1 million. It had been estimated to sell for USD 1 million to USD 1.5 million.
Naso, who attended the auction, was 19 years old when Warhol gave her the painting inscribed to her. She displayed it briefly and then stored it in a closet, where it remained until this year.
"I think I am dreaming," Naso said. "Andy has made me famous for 15 minutes and I`ve come to realize that 15 minutes of fame is more than enough."
An untitled 1962 Warhol drawing of a roll of dollar bills belonging to New York collector Leonard Newman sold for USD 4.2 million, above its USD 2.5 million to USD 3.5 million presale estimate.
The strong bidding, coming after last year`s sagging auction prices amid a global financial downturn, were attributed to the works` stellar provenance, condition and collectors` desire for high quality work by well-known artists.
"With an offering of true icons of postwar art, we saw bidding from all corners of the world, from both dyed-in-wool collectors and new clients alike," said Anthony Grant, Sotheby`s international senior specialist of contemporary art.
"200 One Dollar Bills is a hugely important work for American art history," added Alex Rotter, head of Sotheby`s contemporary art in New York. "Not only was it one of the starting points of pop art, but this picture had the perfect ownership history."