David Hockney overtakes Jeff Koons as most expensive living artist at auction

Brenda Watkins
November 16, 2018

A David Hockney painting has been sold for £70 million, smashing the auction record for a living artist.

It sold following a 10-minute battle between two rival bidders via telephone, after the price passed $70m.

Hockney's 1972 work Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) went under the hammer at Christie's in NY on Thursday.

Koons, 63, held the title since 2013 when his orange balloon dog sold for US$58.4 million.

The buyer's premium and commission took the final price for the canvas, which adorned the wall of the bidding room, to $90,312,500, the auction house announced.

The painting depicts two men _ one swimming the breaststroke underwater, the other standing by the pool looking down.

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

Inspired by the serendipitous juxtaposition of two photographs on his studio floor, Hockney abandoned his first attempt at the painting in 1971 before returning to the idea in April of the following year.

The standing figure is said to represent Hockney's former partner Peter Schlesinger, whom the British artist met in 1966 while teaching art classes in California.

Christie's declined to reveal the identity of the seller, but Bloomberg and the Artnet website have reported that it was owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, who owns the Tavistock Group, London Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur, and whom Forbes estimates to be worth $5 billion.

Earlier this year, another of the 81-year-old's paintings sold for $28.5m - a personal auction record for the artist.

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