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  • PicassoNudeGreen When the gavel fell last February on a rare bronze statue by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, the art work set an all time record for a sale — $104.3 million. It dethroned a Picasso. But the tables have turned again.

    But last night (May 4), Picasso’s stunning, “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,”a 1932 painting of mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, reclining naked regained the crown, selling at Christie’s for a stunning $106.5 million.

    Before the auction, the estimated sale price was pegged at around $80 million.

    It came down to six bidders who were vying for a work that Picasso painted in a day. It last sold in 1951 for $19,800. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to $161,761.49 in today’s dollars.

    Before Giacometti’s bronze sculpture so rudely upended Picasso’s reign, his painting “Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice),”  held the record. It sold in 2004 for $104.1 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

    But that was before the crushing recession, and the art market went through its own period of diminished sales and lower prices. But sales sprang back last December.

    A highly anticipated auction of works by old masters at Christie’s in London shattered records. A rare chalk drawing by Raphael sold for $48 million and a painting by Rembrandt last seen publicly 40 years ago, sold for $33.2 million.

    The auction was said to signal the return of the art market, at least for old masters. But the Giacometti sale and now the record shattering price for the Picasso has extended the frenzy to signature pieces of contemporary art.

    “The market is much stronger than we expected, with depth of buying from Russia, China and the Middle East.” Edward Dolman, Christie’s chief executive told The New York Times.

    Most of the top works were bought by collectors living outside the United States, he added.

    “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust,” however, is considered one of the finest examples of Picasso’s work from that period.

    Not all works sold. Of the 69 pieces at auction, 13 failed to sell, including “Fertility,” a painting by Edvard Munch circa 1900 of a faceless man and woman under a tree.

    The sale price was estimated at $25 million to $35 million, but the painting was withdrawn when bidding stalled at $23 million, according to The Times.