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Jeff Koons, Rabbit, 1986. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. Click above for more images.
Jeff Koons, Rabbit, 1986. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd. Click above for more images.

Jeff Koons’s Rabbit Breaks Auction Record for Most Expensive Work by Living Artist

At the Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale on Wednesday night, a Jeff Koons sculpture set the new auction record for the most expensive artwork by a living artist. His iconic forty-one-inch-tall, stainless-steel sculpture Rabbit, which was inspired by an inflatable children’s toy, fetched more than $91 million, just surpassing the $90.3 million that David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, sold for in November 2018, when it smashed the previous record.

Purchased by dealer Robert E. Mnuchin, Rabbit was one of six works offered from the collection of the late media magnate S.I. Newhouse, who passed away in 2017. The sculpture helped the auction realize a total of $539 million for the night, over $140 million more than last May’s auction. Fifty-one of the sale’s fifty-six lots found buyers.

Other highlights of the auction included Robert Rauschenberg’s eight-foot oil-and-silkscreen-on-canvas work Buffalo II, 1964, which sold for $88.8 million, exceeding its high estimate of $70 million and setting a new record for the artist; Roy Lichtenstein’s Kiss, 1962, which fetched $31.1 million; and Louise Bourgeois’s monumental Spider, conceived in 1996 and cast in 1997, which went for $32 million—the second-highest price paid at auction for a work by a female artist.

The night began with a selection of eleven works from the Robert B. and Beatrice C. Mayer Family Collection. The Chicago-based arts patrons first amassed works by emerging and established artists that ranged from classic Impressionist and European modernist works to Chinese ceramics and African and Oceanic figures, before they began acquiring significant works of Pop art in the 1960s and became early proponents of the movement. Their collection’s curator, Maya Hand, said that the Mayers “elevated contemporary art in Chicago at a time when the city’s exposure to current trends was limited.” Their works netted $157 million.