An auctioneer directs bidding for the sale of Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild (809-4), from the collection of musician Eric Clapton, at Sotheby's auction house in London in this picture taken October 12, 2012, and made available to Reuters on October 13, 2012. Sotheby's said the painting sold at auction on October 12 for 21.3 million pounds ($34.2 million). REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout

London - An abstract painting by German artist Gerhard Richter has a set a new record for the price paid at auction for the work of a living artist, after selling for $34.2 million, Sotheby's auction house in London said.

“Abstraktes Bild (809-4)”, from the collection of rock guitarist Eric Clapton, was sold to an anonymous buyer after five minutes of bidding late on Friday, triggering a round of applause.

The sale smashed the previous 2010 record of $28.6 million paid for Jasper Johns' “Flag” at Christie's auction house in New York in 2010.

Richter's red, yellow and black oil on canvas had been estimated to fetch $14-19 million.

“The combination of outstanding provenance and gold-standard quality in this sublime work by this blue-chip artist made for an historic auction moment,” said Alex Branczik, senior director at Sotheby's and head of the sale.

The top end of the art market has performed strongly in recent years despite a faltering global economy. - Reuters