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"Nympheas en fleur" by Claude Monet, part of the impressionist's famed water-lily series, fetched $84.69 million setting a new auction record for the artist, Christie's said

The sale of the art collection amassed by the late banker David Rockefeller kicked off Tuesday, setting new auction records for French artists Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, Christie's said.

Monet's "Nympheas en fleur," part of the impressionist's famed water-lily series inspired by his Giverny home, fetched $84.69 million at the evening sale in New York, the auction house said.

The previous record for the Frenchman had been $81.4 million, set by Christie's in 2016 for "Meule" from Monet's famous grainstack series.

Tuesday's sale also set a new auction record for Henri Matisse, with his 1923 "Odalisque couchee aux magnolias" selling for $80.75 million, Christie's said. The previous Matisse record was $49 million.

But the top lot of the night was Picasso's 1905 masterpiece "Fillette a la corbeille fleurie" ("Young Girl With a Flower Basket") which sold for $115 million, over its pre-sale value of $100 million.

Its original purchase by Gertrude and Leon Stein, together with two other Rose Period paintings, helped jumpstart Pablo Picasso's career. The Rockefellers purchased the canvas in December 1968.

Christie's is selling off 1,600 items from the glittering collection of Rockefeller, the billionaire who died last year aged 101, and his wife Peggy.

The three-day sale is expected to rake in $600 million and smash the previous record for a collection set by that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, which fetched $484 million in 2009.

It sees Christie's for the first time spread its flagship spring sales over two weeks, twice the traditional length.

The May 2018 season is expected to break new records, six months after Christie's sold a Leonardo da Vinci for $450.3 million, more than doubling the world record for any work of art bought at auction.

Picasso's "The Women of Algiers (Version O)" previously sold for $179.4 million at Christie's in New York in May 2015.

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