British artist David Hockney’s famous painting “Portrait of an Artist [Pool with Two Figures]” was sold for $90 million at Christie’s on Thursday night, shattering the record for work by a living artist sold at auction.
The painting is considered one of Hockney’s greatest pieces. The artist is famous for painting “swimming pool” pictures and “double portraits.”
The previous record by a living artist was set by Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Dog,” which sold for $58.4 million in 2013.
The 1972 painting by Hockney, now 81, is “the holy grail of his paintings, from both the historical and the market perspectives,” Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, said in September. He noted that it reflects both the European and the American perspectives of an artist who came to live in sunny California in the ’60s, and saw himself as living on both continents.
The buyer of the painting was not immediately identified.
The painting shows two men – one swimming the breaststroke underwater, the other standing by the pool looking down. The painting was originally inspired by two photographs Hockney found juxtaposed on his studio floor, one of a swimmer in Hollywood in 1966, and another of a boy staring at something on the ground.
The landscape in the background is supposed to be southern France, and the person standing is said to represent Peter Schlesinger, a student Hockney met in 1966 when he taught at UCLA. The two had a relationship for five years and Schlesinger became “the greatest love of Hockney’s life,” according to Christie’s. However, the two broke up in 1971.
The artist had started the painting, abandoned it but then began again the following year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.