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Forgotten boom: the legacy of Japan's 1980s art buying spree

Record prices pushed art market valuations forward on a global scale

NEW YORK -- On March 30, 1987, a painting from Vincent Van Gogh's iconic "Sunflowers" series was up for auction at Christie's London. Speculation was that it would go for as much as $12 million, nearly $3 million more than the last Van Gogh, "Landscape with Rising Sun," auctioned at the highest-ever price of $9.9 million.

Then-head of Christie's Impressionist and Modern department Michael Findlay was holding the $12 million bid (approximately 9.5 million pounds). Raising it again -- certain that would close the sale -- Findlay was astounded when the bids kept going up, and didn't stop until hitting $39.9 million (24.75 million pounds).

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