L'homme au doigt or “Man Pointing,” which is a wiry, nearly six-foot man holding up one hand and pointing with the other, was sold by Christie's for $141.285 million to an anonymous buyer after furious bidding.
An art critic has described the 177.5-centimetre-high sculpture as “a positive metaphor for civilization emerging from years of physical and psychic horror”.
It was created in 1947 as part of what was originally planned as a composition with two figures but Giacometti (1901-1966) destroyed a plaster cast of the other figure after concluding “it was not what I wanted”.
Giacometti's “Walking Man”, held the previous auction record for a sculpture, selling for $104.3 million in 2010.
The Swiss sculptor, painter and printmaker was born in the canton of Graubünden in an Alpine valley close to the Italian border.
His father was Giovanni Giacometti, a post-impressionist painter.
The “Man Pointing” sculpture sold at an auction of 20th century masterpieces that also set a new record for the highest price for a painting with Picasso's “Women of Algiers (Version O)”, fetching $179.365 million (including the commission) from an anonymous bidder.
The Picasso painting is part of a 15-work series created in 1954-1955, identified with the letters A to O.
The astronomical sums paid for the works reflect what experts see as a vibrant market for art as a financial investment that is attracting new wealthy collectors.