IT was one of his most coveted paintings, a dazzlingly vivid splash of colour depicting a canoe in moonlight.
But Edinburgh artist Peter Doig was still left stunned after his work fetched a new record price when it went under the hammer at one of the most sensational art sales of recent memory.
Doig’s Swamped, a painting of a canoe in a moonlit lagoon, sold for £16.6 million at the record-breaking auction.
It was one of a number of works sold at Christie’s auction house in New York, where a piece by Picasso went for £115m, setting a world record for artwork sold at auction.
Doig, who was born in Edinburgh but now lives in Trinidad, broke a personal record with his 1990 painting featuring vivid reds and yellows in a reflection on a lake. His previous best sale had been £11.5m.
The sale makes Doig one of Europe’s most expensive living artists.
Experts say the prices are driven by artworks’ investment value and by wealthy new and established collectors seeking out the very best works.
“I don’t really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don’t see happening in the near future,” Manhattan dealer Richard Feigen said.
The sale also saw Alberto Giacometti’s life-size Pointing Man set the record for most expensive sculpture, fetching £90.7m. The buyers of Giacometti’s piece and Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) have chosen to remain anonymous.
Also at Christie’s, a painting of the Houses of Parliament at sunset, by Claude Monet, at the turn of the 20th century sold for £26m.
Doig, a former Turner Prize nominee, studied in London during the 1980s and won the Whitechapel Artist award in 1991. Having returned to Trinidad in 2000, after spending part of his childhood there, he said his paintings had become “more decorative” and “more open”.
The son of an evidently restless Scottish accountant, Doig was born in Edinburgh in 1959, moved to Trinidad in 1962, where his father worked at a shipping company, then to Canada in 1966.
Speaking about one of his other canoe-based works which sold for more than £5m back in 2007, Doig described his reaction to the sale.
In a 2013 interview, he said: “It was shocking to me when it happened, and it still feels like it had nothing to do with me.
“I feel very separate from that world. I used to know every single person I sold a painting to, but now I have no idea who buys them. It’s a little odd if you think about it.”
Swamped had been on display at Christie’s London auction house ahead of the sale, and a Christie’s spokesman described it as a work of “shuddering tension”, adding: “This atmosphere is amplified by the artist’s rich assimilation of pictorial techniques and influences from across the history of art.”
The work has been at auction previously in 2002, where it achieved three times the previous world record, at £322,000.