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Christie's tops Sotheby's in eventful week

New York

CHRISTIE'S beat out rival Sotheby's in a billion-dollar week for both auction houses, thanks in part to eight-figure sales by bold-faced artists.

Christie's sold US$1.1 billion in art this past week, while Sotheby's moved US$835 million of art, plus more in jewellery and watches, according to press releases from both companies.

The Christie's haul was padded by the US$90.3 million sale of David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" - who eclipsed Jeff Koons as the most expensive living artist to sell at auction. A new record for American art was also set by the company with the US$92 million sale of Edward Hopper's "Chop Suey."

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Billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis was the seller of the Hockney. The Hopper came from the collection of deceased businessman Barney Ebsworth. The buyers weren't disclosed.

The highlight at Sotheby's was the sale of a pearl and diamond necklace once owned by Marie Antoinette. The jewels sold for US$36.2 million. The auction house said it's had a 15 per cent increase over last year in sales of impressionist, modern and contemporary works.

Meanwhile, Phillips - a smaller auction house - announced US$88.5 million of sales. BLOOMBERG