ArtInfo.com has learned that Eli Broad, the Los Angeles-based billionaire art collector and philanthropist, was the buyer at Sotheby's Wednesday evening of David Smith's stainless steel masterpiece from 1965, Cubi XXVIII that sold for a record $23,816,000.

It ranks as the most expensive contemporary work of art to sell at auction and the second highest price ever achieved for a sculpture from any period.

Only Constantine Brancusi's marble and stone Oiseau dans l'espace from 1922-23 fetched more when it sold last May at Christie's New York for $27,456,000.

"We've been looking for a Cubi for more than a decade," said Broad in an exclusive telephone interview with ArtInfo.com. "I knew it would go way over the estimate and I was prepared, frankly, to pay more than what I bid."

Broad explained that back in May 1994 he was the underbidder for Cubi V, another version from the storied series that sold for $4 million. "I always regretted it."

In terms of his second chance, the collector said, "I kept thinking about it and realized this was the only opportunity we’re ever going to have to get a great Cubi and I went for it."

Asked if he was surprised at the ferocious bidding battle for it, Broad replied,
"I knew it would go way over the estimate and I was prepared, frankly, to pay more than what I bid."

Broad, 71, a self-made billionaire who built his fortune as a pre-fab housing manufacturer, intends to temporarily loan the Cubi to a yet to be disclosed New York museum.

"Then it's going to wind up in our home in Brentwood and hopefully, when the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opens in '07 in Los Angeles, we'll put it on display there."

Ironically, the collector couldn't attend the auction at Sotheby's due to a prior engagement involving one of his philanthropic foundations.

"I left instructions with Larry Gagosian on how high to go."

Broad also acquired Cy Twombly's magisterial painting, Untitled (Rome) from 1961 [lot 21] (est. $6-8 million) for $7,968,000.

"We did some serious damage on Wednesday evening," said Broad.