Christies Postwar and Contemporary Sale in New York has realised a total of $538,971,750 / £418,131,691 million, reaching their revised presale estimates after the withdrawal of two key works of art.
A $91 Million Record for Jeff Koons shiny stainless steel Rabbit topped the sale. This, the first in his iconic series of inflatables has set a world auction record for a living artist. Koons is best-for his sculptures which have provoked controversy for decades after emerging as a leading figure in New York’s art scene in the 1980s. “Balloon Dog Orange” for five years held the record for highest price reached at auction for a living artist after a 2013 sale for $58.4 million. The sale of Koons’ Rabbit surpasses the previous highest record for a work by a living artist set by British artist David Hockney in November. The buyer Robert E. Mnuchin is an art dealer and the father of Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
In the 33 years since it was first shown at Ileana Sonnabend’s gallery in New York, many thousands of words have been written about Jeff Koons’s controversial, stainless-steel Rabbit. In the debates that have raged, it has variously been described as cute, sinister, cartoonish, imposing, vacuous, sexy, chilling, dazzling and iconic.
Rabbit was one of 11 works offered during 20th Century Week from The Collection of S.I. Newhouse. ‘On behalf of the family and myself I want to express our gratitude for the great work Christie’s has done,’ said Tobias Meyer, an adviser to the Newhouse family, after the total for the grouping reached $216,287,500. ‘We are delighted with the results.’
Other notable sales included Robert Rauschenberg’s Buffalo II, which sold for $88,805,000, after a bidding war on the phones which lasted over 10 minutes. The painting was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1964 as part of a group exhibition for which Rauschenberg became the first American to win the coveted Grand Prize in Painting. The market for Contemporary Sculpture has been redefined by Jeff Koon’s, Rabbit while Louise Bourgeois, Spider $32,055,000 World Auction Record and second highest price at auction for a woman artist.
6 Further Records Were Set in the sale, Including:
World Auction Record: Robert Rauschenberg, Buffalo II, $88,805,000
World Auction Record: Frank Stella, Point of Pines, $28,082,500
World Auction Record: Larry Rivers, The Last Civil War Veteran, $1,215,000
World Auction Record: Jonas Wood, Japanese Garden 3, $4,928,500
World Auction Record: Daniel Buren, Peinture aux formes indéfinies, $2,175,000
Record in the Medium: Bruce Nauman, From Hand to Mouth, $1,575,000