A Ukranian steel billionaire today revealed he was one of the secret buyers at Damien Hirst`s record-breaking £111million Sotheby`s auction.

Collector Victor Pinchuk admitted he had bought works at the London auction this month, but refused to say which items he had acquired.

The two-day sale smashed the world record for an auction dedicated to a single artist, making a total of £111,576,800, 10 times more than the £11.3 million raised when 88 works by Pablo Picasso were sold by Sotheby`s in New York in 1993.

The sale of 223 new works, including The Golden Calf - a bull in formaldehyde complete with an 18-carat gold disc above its head which sold for £10.3 million - flew in the face of the economic downturn, demonstrating the financial faith placed in Hirst`s works by the world`s super-rich.

Buyers from Middle-Eastern and former Soviet Union countries have bolstered the art market in recent years, and were the most prevalent at Hirst`s sale. Mr Pinchuk`s collection includes works by some of the most expensive living artists, ranging from Hirst and Jeff Koons to German photographer Andreas Gursky.

Speaking outside his Kiev home, he told Bloomberg News: "Over the past year, I`ve acquired works by my favourite artists. Yes, I bought at the recent Hirst auction, but I won`t name works. You must wait until spring when I`ll display new acquisitions."

Simon de Pury, chairman of the auction house Phillips de Pury & Co, said the billionaire, who owns an art centre in Kiev, has become one of the world`s major art figures.

He said: "Victor Pinchuk is having a great impact on the market. Ever since he opened the centre, others in Ukraine and Russia have emulated him and taken an interest in contemporary art.

"The contemporary art market in both Ukraine and Russia has really taken off in the past two years, and I expect this growth to continue." Mr Pinchuk, son-in-law of former Ukraine president Leonid Kuchma, has a fortune estimated at $5billion (£2.7billion).

Evening Standard