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For the buyers and their representatives, the Giacometti sale was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. The sculpture is considered to be one of the most important by the 20th-century Swiss artist.

There was a genuine sense of anticipation in the auction room. Not only could you smell the expensive perfumes and colognes, you could smell the money. Interest in the sculpture was clear from the start with bids being shouted before the auctioneer had even had chance to ask for them. "On your marks, get set, I'm going to start at 9m," said auctioneer Henry Wyndham.

"12m," came the first bid. "That's my kind of price," said Wyndham.

The figure then rattled up quickly, ping-ponging around the room. In total there were 10 bidders but it came down to two telephone bidders from the mid-30m mark onwards. When it went from 47m to 50m in a giant leap what's 3m after all there were gasps. When the hammer went down, there was loud applause.

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