David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) has become the most valuable work of art by a living artist ever sold at auction after selling for a record-shattering US$90.3m at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York, replacing the previous record holder by Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange).
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
We had an interview with Koji Inoue, International Director, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s, about the painting before the sale
David Hockney is now the most expensive living artist
David Hockney, born in England and later moved to California, is seen as one of the most talented and prolific artists of the 21st Century. He has an incredible eye to photography, printmaking, painting.
When asked of the reason for placing such a high estimate on the painting, Koji Inoue, International Director, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s said Hockney’s pool-themed paintings are the most desirable among collectors and connoisseurs. It is one of the only eight paintings of two-figures style created by Hockney, and this particular one features the artist and Peter Schlesinger, who was one of Hockney's great loves.
David Hockney with his Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
The highly-anticipated painting generated tremendous excitement in the art world. It was further hyped up when the auction house decided to offer the painting without reserve, which means the painting would be sold without any minimum price.
Many high-valued lots offered at evening sales are usually given a guarantee, either by the auction house or a third party, to make sure the work will be sold for a certain amount. It is very unusual that this painting, valued at a whopping US$80m, didn't carry any guarantee.
It is even rarer to see a high-valued work of art to be offered without a reserve, an arrangement that is commonly seen in lots with an extremely low estimate. Such a risky move showed the owner had great confidence that the Hockney painting could ask for a good price even without setting a threshold.
The auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President, opened the bidding at US$18m. But the price soon soared up to US$70m after the bidding started. The bidding slowed down at this point with only two telephone bidders stayed in the bidding battle, represented by Katharine Arnold, specialist from Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art, and Marc Porter, Chairman, Americas.
Katharine Arnold (with her hand raised), specialist from Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art
Marc Porter (first one on the left), Chairman, Americas
The bidding lasted for another nine minutes before the auctioneer put the gavel down at US$80m, the estimated price point for the painting. The painting sold for US$90.3m (with premium included) to Marc Porter’s client, making it the most expensive work of art by a living artist ever sold at an auction.
Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for US$58.4m, the previous record for the most valuable work by any living artist
Hockney’s previous auction record was set by Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), which sold for US$28.4m
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) obliterated the record set by Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange), which sold for US$58.4m in 2013. It also reset the artist’s record that previously held by his Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica from 1990 that sold for US$28.4m at Sotheby’s New York in May. Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica was believed to be sold to an Asian collector.
Top three lots
David Hockney (b. 1937). Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)
Lot no.: 9C
Painted in: 1972
Size: 213.5 x 305 cm
- André Emmerich Gallery, New York
- Mr. and Mrs. James Astor, London
- William Beadleston, Inc., New York
- Stephen Mazoh & Co., New York
- David Geffen, Los Angeles, 1983
- Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1995
Hammer price: US$80,000,000
Price realised: US$90,312,500
Mark Rothko (1903-1970). Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum)
Lot no.: 18C
Painted in: 1962
Size: 152.5 x 145 cm
- Estate of the artist, 1970
- Marlborough A.G., Liechtenstein, 1970
- Estate of the artist, 1977
- Pace Gallery, New York, 1978
- Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1979
Hammer price: US$32,000,000
Price realised: US$35,712,500
Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993). Ocean Park #137
Lot no.: 31C
Painted in: 1985
Size: 254 x 205.7 cm
- M. Knoedler and Co., New York, 1985
- Private collection, Los Angeles, 1985
- L.A. Louver, Los Angeles, 1988
- Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1988
Hammer price: US$19,800,000
Price realised: US$22,587,500
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Date: 15 November 2018
Lots offered: 51
Sold by lots: 80%
Sale total: US$357,622,500