Pool with Two Figures 1972
For the last five years, the title of most expensive living artist has been held by Jeff Koons, and was won at Christie’s in November 2013 when his 12-foot-tall sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994–2000) sold for $58.4 million with fees. The work, which had been consigned by Peter Brant, smashed the $37 million record for a living artist set by Gerhard Richter just months earlier.
But, if all goes to plan, Koons will be unseated next Thursday by the British-born, Los Angeles–based artist David Hockney, whose Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) is expected to sell for as much as $80 million during Christie’s post-war and contemporary art evening sale. Such a result for the large double portrait would nearly triple Hockney’s current record of $28.4 million, set this spring by Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990). It would also mark the fourth new auction record for Hockney set in the last two years, amidst a major traveling retrospective of his work.
Art historians and market participants spoken to for this story agreed that a groundswell of interest in Hockney’s work and leveling up of his place in art history has spurred increased supply of great paintings by the artist on the market, while also broadening demand among the most elite collectors. In an art market driven by trophies, Portrait of an Artist is quite possibly the best Hockney of all.