This iconic painting just sold for $90.3 million — and it shattered a major auction record by more than $30 million

CHRISTIE’S IMAGES LTD. 2018‘Portrait of an artist (Pool with Two Figures).’
  • David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” shattered auctionrecords on November 15.
  • Christie’s listed it at a pre-sale estimate of $US80 million, but the actual sale far surpassed it at $US90.3 million.
  • Hockney’s painting is now the most expensivepainting ever sold at auction by a living artist.

A David Hockney painting shattered auction records by more than $US30 million on Thursday.

The painting in question, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” went on sale as part of Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale.

As Business Insider previously reported, the previous record for most expensive work sold by a living artist was Jeff Koons’ orange “Balloon Dog,” which sold for $US58.4 million in 2013. (Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce site, capitalised on the sale by selling knockoff replicas of the sculpture for $US500.)

According to CNN, the 81-year-old Hockney is considered “one of the world’s most popular artists.” His current auction record stands at $US28.5 million.

In an email to Business Insider, Alex Rotter, Co-Chairman Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christie’s, noted that the painting “stands as one of the great masterpieces of the modern era.”

“David Hockney’s brilliance as an artist is on full display with this monumental canvas, which encapsulates the essence of the idealised poolside landscape, and the tremendous complexity that exists within human relationship,” he continued. “With this painting, Hockney cemented his placement within the real of history’s most venerated artists,” he continued.


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Hockney moved to California from England in 1964 and it was then, as reported by Robb Report, that he started taking great interest in the theme of swimming pools. This painting is all the more recognisable in that, Robb Report notes, it “…combines two of his most recognisable motifs – the swimming pool… and the device of the double portrait.”

The $US90.3 million price tag still feels comparatively modest (keyword: comparatively) in the scheme of historic art sales worldwide. “Salvator Mundi,” a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, sold for an eye-popping $US450.3 million at a November 2017 Christie’s auction, making it the most expensive piece of art ever sold.

Hockney’s painting isn’t the only record-smashing auction sale 2018 has seen. It will join the likes of a bottle of Macallan 60-year-old, which sold at auction for $US1.1 million in October and destroyed the record for the most expensive whiskey ever sold.

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