Hockney painting breaks record for most expensive work by living artist

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Nov. 16, 2018 / 9:52 AM GMT / Updated 9:55 AM GMT

By Reuters

NEW YORK — A 1972 painting by British artist David Hockney soared to $90.3 million at Christie’s on Thursday, smashing the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist.

With Christie’s commission, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” surpassed the auction house’s pre-sale estimate of about $80 million, following a bidding war between two determined would-be buyers once the work hit $70 million.

The previous record for a work by a living artist was held by Jeff Koons’ sculpture “Balloon Dog,” which sold for $58.4 million in 2013. Hockney’s previous auction record was $28.4 million.

Hockney’s painting depicts a man in a pink jacket looking down on another figure swimming underwater in a pool. It was reported to have been consigned by British billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis.

Christie’s did not identify the seller or the successful bidder, who was bidding via telephone.

Image: Auctioneer during sale of David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)"

The auctioneer takes bids during the sale of David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” on Thursday.DON EMMERT / AFP – Getty Images

The work went far towards boosting the success of Christie’s post-war and contemporary art auction, which took in a total of $357.6 million, with 41 of the 48 lots on offer finding buyers.

Other highlights included Francis Bacon’s “Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing,” which sold for $21.7 million against a pre-sale estimate of $14 million to $18 million, and Alexander Calder’s “21 Feuilles Blanches,” which more than doubled its high estimate, selling for just under $18 million.

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