Van Gogh's Insane Asylum View Sells for $81.3 Million at Auction

Pablo Picasso Femme accroupie

Pablo Picasso Femme accroupie

A canvas by Vincent van Gogh fetched $81.3 million in an auction at Christie's Monday.

Laboureur Dans Un Champ, painted by the tortured Dutch genius from the window of a French asylum where he had committed himself, was sold to a buyer on the telephone after a frenzied four-minute bidding war. It had been valued at US$50 million.

After not painting for six weeks, van Gogh decided the distraction of work "might possibly be the best remedy". The auction record for Van Gogh was set in 1990 with the $82.5 million sale of "Portrait du Dr. Gachet", according to the Artnet database of auction prices.

Fernand Leger's Contraste de formes sold at a hammer price of $62m (£47m), which was $70m including premium, setting an auction record for the artist.

Rene Magritte's L'empire Des Lumieres - a nocturnal bourgeois street scene - was sold for US$20.56 million, which Christie's said was a world auction record for the Belgian surrealist. It was painted in Brussels, 1949.

The painting, completed in early September 1889, was owned by billionaires Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass who sold it through Christie's in NY. It had been estimated to bring in $50 million at Christie's evening sale of Impressionist and modern art in NY.