Jeff Koons's 'Rabbit' Breaks the Record For Most Expensive Artwork
On Wednesday night, Jeff Koons's 1986 sculpture Rabbit, a stainless steel work inspired by inflatable toys, sold at Christie’s for $91.1 million. It is now the most expensive work sold at auction by any living artist. David Hockney had set the record just this past November, when his 1972 painting Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold at Christie’s for $90.2 million. What a reasonable market.
Rabbit was auctioned as part of the collection of the late publishing magnate S.I. Newhouse, Jr., who passed away in October 2017 (disclosure: Newhouse Jr. was the co-owner of Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast, which owns W). Christie’s put up six items from the collection for sale on Wednesday, and they fetched a combined $115 million. Rabbit beat Koons's own personal record of $58.4 million, when Jose Mugrabi paid $58.4 million for Balloon Dog (Orange), 1994-2000, at Christie's in 2013. That price was the record for most expensive work by a living artist before Hockney broke it last year, and before Koons took back his crown.
And the Rabbit buyer? None other than Robert E. Mnuchin, art dealer and father to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, infamous for his and wife Louise Linton’s many ostentatious displays of wealth. According to the New York Times, Robert Mnuchin, who operates the Mnuchin Gallery on Manhattan's Upper East Side (which shows a mix of modern and contemporary artists), refused to divulge on which client's behalf he was bidding; according to Artsy there was wide speculation in the room as soon as the gavel struck.
During the auction, Mnuchin was reportedly seated with magazine publisher and collector Peter Brant, and dealer Jeffrey Deitch. “I always thought [Rabbit] would be in the pantheon,” Deitch told The Times. “It was instantly embraced by artists and cultural critics, and it’s kept its resonance for all these years.”
It is obviously a big day for Koons, whose enormously famous (and expensive) works have been subject to both high praise and derision over the course of his long career. This is also likely a big day for Kris Jenner, noted Koons fan, who famously “art-shamed” daughter Khloé Kardashian, naïve to the ways of the Balloon Dog. Perhaps Khloé will finally attend that art class.
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