NEW YORK – A striking metallic “Rabbit” sculpture by Jeff Koons sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s in New York on Wednesday, setting a new record for a living artist.
Experts had estimated it would fetch somewhere between $50 and $70 million.
The stainless-steel sculpture by the US artist surpassed these estimations and reached a hammer price of $80 million, which ended up being $91.1 million including taxes and commissions.
Koons’ piece thus became the most expensive artwork by a living artist, beating the previous record held by British painter David Hockney, whose “Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures)” was sold for $90.3 million at another Christie’s auction six months ago.
This particular work of Hockney also reached a hammer price of $80 million last November, but the recent increase in Christie’s commissions – the third in the last three years – led “Rabbit” to surpass the British painting by just under $800,000.
With this piece, Koons regains the record for a living artist which he previously held from November 2013 with his “Balloon Dog (Orange),” which was sold for $58.4 million, until it was surpassed in November 2018 by Hockney’s painting.
The “Rabbit” sculpture, which is just over a meter high, is the only one which remains in private possession out of the four pieces that were made.
The other three belong to museums in Los Angeles, Chicago and Qatar.
While the “Rabbits” at the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the National Museum of Qatar are exhibited frequently, the piece auctioned on Wednesday had not been shown in public since 1988, and was last seen at the Fridericianum museum in Kassel, Germany.
“Rabbit” a minimalist sculpture of a rabbit silver in color, has appeared in numerous books, magazines and catalog covers and a monumental balloon version took part in New York’s Thanksgiving parade in 2007.
Another outstanding work at the auction at Christie’s was one of the biggest screen canvases by American artist Robert Rauschenberg, “Bufallo II” (1964), which came close to Koons’ “Rabbit,” fetching $88.8 million including taxes and commission, surpassing the estimate of $70 million.
Nearly 2.5 meters high and 1.8 meters long, the piece is from one of Rauschenberg’s most productive periods when he began combining dissimilar images, such as an eagle, the Coca-Cola logo, and a portrait of former US President John F Kennedy, as can be seen in “Bufallo II,” aiming to capture the social and political spirit of the time.
Andy Warhol’s “Double Elvis Ferus Type” (1963), which was last exhibited in the year it was made, sold for $53 million.
Louise Bourgeois’s 3-meter-high and 7-meter-wide 1997 bronze spider was sold for more than $32 million.
Frank Stella’s “Point of Pines,” a minimalist piece which is dominated by the color black, was sold for more than $28 million, setting a new record for the 83-year-old American artist.