Auction  November 16, 2018  Chandra Noyes

David Hockney Achieves Highest Price Ever Paid for a Living Artist at Auction

Christie's Images Ltd.

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972

At Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Evening sale last night, David Hockney’s 1972 Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) became the most expensive painting ever sold by a living artist. Selling for $90,312,500, the Hockney work far exceeded the previous record, set by Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog (Orange) in 2013, when it sold at Christie's for $58,405,000.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is a classic, iconic Hockney canvas, showcasing two of his most common subjects: placid Southern California pools and the double portrait. Coming off of his recent international retrospective, which traveled from the Tate Britain to the Centre Georges Pompidou and finally the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 81, Hockney is more popular than ever, as the bidding war for this piece shows.

Christie's Images Ltd

 Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum), 1962

The auction, which totaled $357,622,500, is part of a week of exceptional auctions at Christie’s that has already achieved over $1 billion. Other top lots included Mark Rothko’s 1962 Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum) which achieved $35,712,500, four pieces by Joseph Cornell, totaling $43,967,500, and works from Richard Diebenkorn, Francis Bacon, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, which all sold for upwards of $20 million.

Several other artists set records at the auction, including Sam Gilliam, whose Lady Day II set a new world auction record for the artist when it sold for $2,172,500. A work by Robert Colescott appeared in a Christie’s evening sale for the first time, with Cultural Exchange (1987) selling for $912,500. The Philip Guston drawing Window set a record for highest price paid for a work on paper, selling for $3,132,500, far exceeding its estimate of $300,000-500,000.

Sam Gilliam, Lady Day II, 1971
Christie's Images Ltd

Sam Gilliam, Lady Day II, 1971

Robert Colescott, Cultural Exchange, 1987
Christie's Images Ltd

Robert Colescott, Cultural Exchange, 1987

Philip Guston, Window, 1969
Christie's Images Ltd.

Philip Guston, Window, 1969

Christie's week of exceptional auctions continues today with two more Post-War and Contemporary Auctions in New York.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.