Jeff Koons clumsy sculpture titled Tulip, which sat outside New York’s Rockefeller Center, for the viewing of Christie’s latest Contemporary art sale has sold for an artist record of $33.7m (£21.2m). Created between 1995-2004, the tinted stainless steel sculpture is one of five versions of the work in existence. The piece is a photorealist rendition of a bouquet of slightly deflated balloon flowers.
Other examples of this sculpture are in high-profile collections: one was shown at the unveiling of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008, one at the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Prada Foundation and the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation. A temporary copy was also created and exhibited in China. It is now on a ten-year loan to the US Embassy in Beijing. The Christie’s sculpture was acquired as an investment piece in 2002 by NORD/LB Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hanover, Germany. In May, the bank announced to sell Tulips in order to fund the creation of an arts foundation in Hanover, with the mission to support creative and invigorating contemporary arts projects in northern Germany.
They are candy coloured and cheerfully pleasing to the eye. If these are iconic and worth this sort of money in ten years time I’ll eat my chapeau! “Tulips is one of the most vivid and optimistic works from Koons’ seminal Celebration series, a tribute to pleasures of all kinds—sentimental, playful, and erotic. Inspired by flowers that are known to symbolize spring, rebirth, love and passion, Koons transforms this universally appealing source, referenced throughout the history of art, into a monumental sculpture that is both formally sophisticated and technically dazzling. The extraordinary quality of Tulips, combined with Koons’ esteemed position within the international marketplace makes it a particular delight for us to handle the sale on behalf of NORD/LB”, said Brett Gorvy, Chairman and International Head of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art. “This truly was an extraordinary sale,” said Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie’s Europe, Middle East and Russia. “Clearly there’s an enormous amount of energy in the post-war and contemporary work sold. It’s highly likely that we’ll see a continuation of records being broken.” Jeff Koons’ Tulip has now become the second highest price work, paid for a living artist. The highest was Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, a 1994 painting sold in October.
The US art season has now ended with a record-breaking sales of $412m (£259.9m) for Christie’s, with records set for works by 11 artists.The auction also set records for Franz Kline $40.4m (£25.4m), and Jean-Michel Basquiat $26.4m (£16.6m). Meanwhile Rothko’s Red Strip realised $23.4m (£14.7m), just twenty four hours after large-scale masterpiece No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) sold for $75.1m (£47.2m) at Sotheby’s.