NEW YORK (AFP) - Two iconic Andy Warhol paintings of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando sold for more than US$151 million (S$195 million) at auction in New York on Wednesday, shattering pre-sale estimates by several million dollars, as Christie's sold a record US$852.9 million of modern art on Wednesday evening.
Pop-art legend Warhol's Triple Elvis - a 1963 silkscreen depicting three images of the King of Rock and Roll posing as a gunslinging cowboy - sold for US$81.9 million at the Christie's sale.
The striking seven-foot tall work, derived from a publicity still for the 1960 Don Siegel-directed Western Flaming Star, had been estimated to fetch US$60 million.
The final sale price topped out at more than US$20 million above the estimate after six minutes of frenzied bidding.
It was a similar story for the other Warhol classic sold Wednesday, Four Marlons, a giant set of four images of the legendary actor taken from his 1953 motorcycle gang classic The Wild One. Both of Wednesday's auction prices however were well short of the all-time record for a Warhol work set by Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), which fetched US$105.4 million in November last year at Sotheby's.
A flurry of bids also greeted the sale of Cy Twombly's Untitled from his blackboard series, which went under the hammer for the first time.
The painting - a series of energetic looping spirals resembling chalk scribblings on a school blackboard - sold for US$69.6 million, the highest amount ever paid for a work by the American, who died three years ago in Italy.
Several world records were set for masterpieces sold on Wednesday, including US$30.4 million raised for Smash by Ed Ruscha, regarded as one of the leading lights of the American pop-art movement.
American photographer Cindy Sherman, 60, also set a record with her Untitled Film Stills, which fetched US$6.8 million. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's White No. 28 earned US$7.1 million, smashing its estimate of between US$1.5 million and US$2 million.
Revered British artist Francis Bacon's Seated Figure meanwhile sold for US$44.96 million, in the lower range of price estimates set between US$40 million and US$60 million.
A Bacon triptych - Three Studies of Lucian Freud - sold for US$142.4 million last year, the highest ever price for a work of art sold at auction, surpassing the previous best of US$119.9 million raised for the fourth print of Edvard Munch's The Scream set in May 2012.
With its total sales on Wednesday evening sale, Christie's easily broke its $$745 million record set on May 13 for postwar and contemporary art.