Pool painting sells for $124 million, smashes living artist record

Carla Harmon
November 16, 2018

A celebrated painting by British artist David Hockney has been sold at Christie's in NY for just over $90m (£70m) - an auction record for a work by a living artist.

Christie's did not identify the seller or the successful bidder, who was bidding via telephone during a almost 10-minute contest for the work.

The previous record by a living artist was held by Jeff Koons, whose "Balloon Dog" sculpture sold for $58.4 million at Christies in 2013.

It was standing room only in the packed sales room at Christie's in NY, where a smattering of applause broke out when the sale concluded, the painting hammering for $80 million.

Among his famous "pool paintings", "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" is considered one of his premier works.

With Christie's commission, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)", surpassed the auction house's pre-sale estimate of about $80 million, according to Reuters.

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in NY, said the painting reflects both the European and the USA perspectives of Hockney who went to live in California in the 1960s and saw himself as living on both continents.

"One was of a figure swimming underwater and therefore quite distorted ... the other was a boy gazing at something on the ground", Hockney said.

Hockney's sold his painting for $18,000 in 1972.

Christie's described it as "one of the great masterpieces of the modern era".

The standing man is Peter Schlesinger, an artist and Hockney's ex-lover.

Started in 1971, Portrait of an Artist was inspired by two unrelated photos that had fallen together in Hockney's studio.

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