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David Hockney painting fetches record $ 90 million at NYC auction

16 November 2018

David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) - perhaps the most recognized piece in the English painter's swimming pool series - fetched $90 million U.S. at Christie's NY auction on Thursday, becoming the most expensive work sold by a living artist.

The previous record for a work by a living artist was set by American Jeff Koons for one of his Balloon Dog sculptures which sold for $58.4m (£45.6m) in 2013.

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The 1972 painting by Hockney, now 81, is "the holy grail of his paintings, from both the historical and the market perspectives", Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, said in September.

With Christie's commission, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)", surpassed the auction house's pre-sale estimate of about $80 million, according to Reuters. With an exhibition at New York's André Emmerich Gallery due to open just four weeks later, the 24-year-old Englishman worked 18 hours a days for two weeks, finally finishing the night before the shippers came to transport the painting to the United States.

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The 1974 biopic "A Bigger Splash" documented its creation, and Hockney himself wrote about the painting in detail in 1988's "David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years".

"One was of a figure swimming underwater and therefore quite distorted ... the other was a boy gazing at something on the ground", Hockney said.

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Hockney had already begun the painting when they split up in 1971.

David Hockney painting fetches record $ 90 million at NYC auction