Sold for US$91.1 million: Jeff Koons rabbit sculpture smashes record for work by living artist

Jeff Koons' Rabbit from the Masterpieces from The Collection of S.I. Newhouse at Christie's New York. It beat the record at auction for a work by a living artist.
Jeff Koons' Rabbit from the Masterpieces from The Collection of S.I. Newhouse at Christie's New York. It beat the record at auction for a work by a living artist.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday (May 15) for US$91.1 million (S$125 million) with fees.

It beat the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney.

Mr Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Koons’ Rabbit. 

He was seated near Mr Peter Brant, the collector and private museum-owner.

It was the ultimate prize among six works offered from the collection of magazine publisher S.I. Newhouse Jr, who died in 2017. 

The price – surpassing the US$90.2 million with fees achieved last November, for Hockney’s 1972 painting Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) – confirmed how Koons’ metal sculptures have become the ultimate billionaire trophies.

In November 2013, the artist’s reflective Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at auction for US$58.4 million.

 

This validation is all the sweeter for Koons, whose career trajectory has been contradictory, controversial and uneven. In 2017, slowing demand for some of his more recent works necessitated a major downsizing of his studio. 

Auction prices for his most valuable sculptures have also slumped. 

In the past five years, the highest price paid for a Koons sculpture at auction was US$22.8 million, for the coloured aluminium sculpture Play Doh, according to the Artnet database of salesroom prices.