Sotheby's makes its biggest ever London art sale

LONDON Thu Feb 6, 2014 9:08am EST

LONDON Feb 6 (Reuters) - Sotheby's made its highest ever London sale on Wednesday with an auction of impressionist, modern and surrealist art, a day after rival Christie's set a record high for any sale ever held in London by an auction house.

Prices for top-end art have soared in recent years, driven by an expanding class of super-rich collectors in emerging markets and easy money from the world's central banks.

Sotheby's said buyers from 44 countries took home 79 works by artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh, worth a total of 163 million pounds ($266 million).

Top lot of the auction was a painting by Danish-French impressionist Camille Pissarro, "Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinee de printemps", which sold for 20 million pounds.

The sale also included 37 works from a private collection of Holocaust survivor Jan Krugier, which included pieces by Picasso, Goya, Degas and Alberto Giacometti and sold for 53 million pounds.

Sotheby's said the number of bidders registered for Wednesday's sale was the highest ever for a London sale of modern and impressionist art by the auction house.

Sales at the New York-based auction house grew by almost 20 percent last year, making it the fastest growing art auctioneer in 2013.

($1=0.6137 British pounds) (Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)