Jeff Koons had been the most expensive living artist since 2013, when his sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994–2000) was sold for $58.4 million. In November 2018 David Hockney pulverized this record when Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) sold at Christie’s for $80 million at the hammer, $90.3 million with fees.
On 15 May 2019 at Christie’s New York during the Post-war and Contemporary Art sale, Rabbit - a shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist and crowning Koons as the most expensive living artist again, not even a year after he lost his title.
Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid from an aisle seat. He was seated near Peter Brant, the collector and private museum-owner, and Jeffrey Deitch, the dealer.
IEstimated to raise at least $50 million, this sculpture, sold without a guarantee, is an edition of three plus one artist’s proof and, according to Christie’s, was the last example left in private hands.
This price confirms how Mr. Koons’s metal sculptures have become the ultimate billionaire trophies produced during the contemporary art boom of the 1980s and ’90s. “No one understands the psychology of wealth better than Koons” says Evan Beard, the national art services executive at US Trust. “His Rabbit flatters and challenges the collector and can deliver a status punch greater than any PR agency”.