LONDON: Britain's DAMIEN HIRST has been crowned the world's most expensive living artist at auction, lifting a title held for years by America's JASPER JOHNS.
It was the high point of a frenetic week of London art auctions that saw records tumbling like ninepins and which is likely to get close to $1 billion (BD37.8m).
Hirst took the title when Sotheby's sold his Lullaby Spring pill cabinet for $19.1 million (BD7.2m).
Johns has held the title off and on since the mid-1980s, swapping in November 1989 with Willem de Kooning who held it until his death in 1997.
The Hirst sale was just 24 hours after LUCIAN FREUD's portrait of "Bruce Bernard" sold at Christie's for £7.9 million (BD5.9m) briefly making him the most expensive living European artist.
"This was the highest totalling week of sales London has ever seen - confirming beyond all doubt London's rapid ascent as a central hub in the art market," said Robin Woodhead, chief executive of Sotheby's International.
"Bidding across the sales was truly global. New buyers locked horns with long-time collectors in a bid to secure top masterpieces," he added.
Christie's, which kicked off the week on Monday with the highest auction total ever in Europe at £121 million (BD91.8m), said its auctions set records for 23 artists including JOAN MIRO and Freud - whose portrait price remains a personal record.