David Hockney overtakes Jeff Koons as most expensive living artist at auction

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A painting by English artist David Hockney sold for $90.3 million during an auction at Christie's in Manhattan on Thursday.

It was acquired after nine minutes of intense bidding during Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art auction in NY on Thursday evening.

The packed sales room in NY broke into applause when the hammer fell, with the buyer's premium and commission taking the final price to $90.3m.

The sale eclipsed the previous record held by U.S. artist Jeff Koons.

Started in 1971, Portrait of an Artist was inspired by two unrelated photos that had fallen together in Hockney's studio.

In the picture, a smartly dressed man, standing on the edge of the pool, looks pensively at another figure swimming toward him in glistening waters, with an idyllic mountain view in the background.

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"The idea of painting two figures in different styles appealed so much that I began the painting immediately".

He said: "It has all the elements that you would want in a Hockney painting". One, fully clothed, stands at the edge of a swimming pool gazing down at another, who is submerged.

It was first sold for $18,000 and has since become Hockney's most iconic oeuvre.

Christie's did not name either the seller or the successful bidder.

Although the 81-year-old has lost his hearing, he continues to paint and experiment with digital art.

Other sale highlights included Francis Bacon's "Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing", which sold for $21.7 million against a pre-sale estimate of $14 million to $18 million, and Alexander Calder's "21 Feuilles Blanches", which more than doubled its high estimate, selling for just under $18 million. The sale reached a total of $357.6 million (€315.4 million).

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