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

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) – David Hockney dethroned Jeff Koons as the most expensive living artist at auction when his painting, owned by billionaire Joe Lewis, fetched US$90.3 million (S$124 million) at Christie’s.

The sale on Thursday (Nov 15) of Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) topped the US$80 million estimate.

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

Mr Lewis, a currency trader who owns football team Tottenham Hotspur, declined to accept a guarantee despite offers of about US$80 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Instead, he opted to sell without a reserve, a minimum price at which the work can be hammered down. That is an unconventional approach because bidding technically can start at US$1.

The 1972 canvas depicts two men. One, fully clothed, stands at the edge of a swimming pool gazing down at another, who is submerged.

The hilly landscape behind them was inspired by the south of France. The standing man is Peter Schlesinger, an artist and Hockney’s ex-lover.

Hockney, 81, was working on the painting at the time their relationship was ending.

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