David Hockney painting sells for $90M, breaking art record

David Hockneys

David Hockneys"Portrait of an Artist" during a press preview at Christie's New York

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.

It sold after more than nine minutes of frenzied bidding, according to Agence France-Presse.

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.

The packed sales room in NY broke into applause when the hammer fell, with the buyer's premium and commission taking the final price to $90.3m.

"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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Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in NY, said the painting reflects both the European and the U.S. perspectives of Hockney who went to live in California in the 1960s and saw himself as living on both continents.

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

Christie's did not name either the seller or the successful bidder.

The Hockney had been taken on tour to drive up potential buyer interest, in Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.

The sales across rival houses offer a chance to see works often not viewed in public for decades and theatrical displays of purchasing power by a new generation of buyers, more worldwide than ever.

Hockney's painting was sold at a Christie's auction in NY with the painting having increased in value from the modest $18,000 that Hackney's NY dealer fetched for it in 1972.

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