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Friday, 20 November, 1998, 12:35 GMT
Van Gogh goes for $71m
"Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe" at Christie's
A self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh has sold in auction in New York for more than $71m - making it the third most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.

The painter's "Portrait of the Artist Without His Beard" went to an anonymous telephone bidder at a huge modern art auction in New York held by the firm Christies.

The tiny 16 by 13 inch Dutch post-Impressionist painting was a birthday present for the artist's mother.

Van Gogh was still in an asylum when he painted it, and shaved off his beard beforehand to reassure his mother that he looked fit and well.

But the work was finished only very shortly before the artist's death.

Art market gasps

A triumph for the auctioneer firm, Christie's, the result has been hailed as proof that nervousness on the art market is calming down.

Christie's estimated the work might fetch $27m as part of a huge modern art auction, but bidding doubled within minutes.

Amid gasps from the collectors and dealers gathered in the auction room, two anonymous collectors duelled for ownership as the price soared past $65m.

Auctoneer Christopher Burge said the sale showed the art market for blue chip works had bounced back.

New York Correspondent Brian Barron says many museums around the world would have liked this masterpiece, but they were left at the starting line by anonymous art-hungry tycoons with bottomless pockets.

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 ON THIS STORY
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The BBC's Brian Barron: "The third most expensive work ever sold at auction"
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Art expert David Darcy: "Nothing like this will ever come on the market again"
See also:

17 Nov 98 | Americas
Record prices in auction houses
20 Nov 98 | Your Money
Art back in fashion
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