David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), painted in 1972. © David Hockney
One of the 20thcenturies most iconic works has been auctioned in a record-breaking sale this morning for a living artist. The hammer dropped on David Hockney’s ‘A portrait of a man’ at just over $90million.
The sale obliterated its predecessor Jeff Koons whose stainless-steel balloon dog (Orange) sold at auction for $58m (£45.2m) in 2013.
The final figure was fixed after a painstakingly long ten-minute bidding war between two rival telephone bidders, after the piece surpassed $70m.
Applause erupted through the room as the hammer finally dropped taking the price of the painting to $90.3m(£70.5m).
Painted in 1972 ‘A portrait of a man’ is the Yorkshireman’s most iconic pieces of work and has been described by Christies as “one of the greatest masterpieces of the modern era”
The artwork is a story of two compositions and was inspired by a juxtaposition of two photographs on his studio floor. One, a distorted figure swimming underwater and the other was a boy gazing at the ground.
Hockney said: “painting two figures in two different styles appealed to me so much so I began painting immediately.”
Preparatory photograph for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), Le Nid-du-Duc, 1972 © David Hockney
Documented in Jack Hanzan’s A bigger splash the initial artwork was destroyed after months of reworking. However, the concept was returned to and completed within four weeks, just in time for the scheduled exhibition at New York’s Andre Emmerich Gallery.
The sale also breaks the artists personal record, which in May, had reached $28.5m (£22.2m).
Words: Millie Davy-McVay l Subbing: Tabitha Durrant