Auction house Christie's
is offering a Monet water-lily painting worth an estimated 30 to 40 million pounds ($44-59 million) this month in what it expects to be the biggest sale it has ever mounted in London.
With the international art market booming again after a slump when financial markets crashed, the Christie's sale also includes a Blue Period portrait by Pablo Picasso, offered by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation founded by the composer, and carrying a price tag about the same as the 1906 Monet.
The Monet, which is to be unveiled on Thursday, and the Picasso, plus 61 other works on offer, are expected to take the tally on June 23 to 164-231 million pounds.
This would be in excess of the London record of 147 million pounds set at rival Sotheby's
That amount was boosted by a world auction record for a work of art when an Alberto Giacometti statue went under the hammer for $104.3 million.
Three months later, Christie's topped that high with a Picasso which fetched $106.5 million in New York.
"We are witnessing a great willingness from clients to consign works of art of the highest quality," said Giovanna Bertazzoni, head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's.
The top European auction total stands at 183 million pounds for the impressionist and modern art section of the private Yves Saint Laurent collection.
With records tumbling, it comes as little surprise that owners of the finest art are willing to offer it up for sale.
Ongoing uncertainty over the state of the broader global economy has failed to dampen the mood in sales rooms, with only a handful of super-wealthy individuals or museums needed to drive values higher.
A relatively short-lived slump in the art market was driven as much by sellers drying up as by buyers no longer wanting to pay out large sums for paintings and sculptures.
The company described demand for the rarest works of art as "fierce," coming from Russia, China and the Middle East as well as the more traditional markets of Europe and North America.
"Nympheas," the work by Monet to be offered, was shown at the famous 1909 exhibition in Paris where the artist's studies of the effects of light in his garden in Giverny won critical acclaim.
Also to be sold at the impressionist and modern art evening sale are important works by Gustav Klimt and Vincent van Gogh.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Michael Roddy)