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Record first half for Christie's

Auction giant Christie's reported a record first half, with art sales jumping 12 percent to $4.5 billion.

The results show that the art market, which many consider to be in a bubble, continued to maintain strength in the first half. It also highlights the relative strength of Christie's, which is privately held, compared to rival Sotheby's, which has been distracted by a proxy battle and comparatively weaker online sales.

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Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Christie's said it sold 51 works for more than $10 million in the first half and had a record six months in post-war and contemporary art, which has been the main engine of growth for prices in the art market.

It's also been successful using online bidding to attract new clients. Its online sales surged 71 percent in the first half and 24 percent of all buyers during the period were new to Christie's.

The auction house launched an iPad app in April and has plans to invest $20 million in its digital platforms.

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"We continue to lead the top levels of the art market, particularly in the post-war and contemporary art area, while also successfully serving the broad variety of interests through all our categories and online sales," Christie's CEO Steven Murphy said in a statement. "It is a new era of excitement and engagement about art and for art. By putting the art first, Christie's has captured the imagination of our clients and served them in their quest to connect with the art itself."

—By CNBC's Robert Frank

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