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David Hockney painting fetches record £70m at auction

16 November 2018

David Hockney dethroned Jeff Koons as the most expensive living artist at auction when his painting, owned by billionaire Joe Lewis, fetched US$90.3 million (S$124 million) at Christie's.

The previous record was held by Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog, which sold for $US58.4 million ($80.2 million) in 2013.

Working 18-hour days for a solid two weeks before the show, Hockney has recalled he "literally finished the painting the night before it had to be sent off to the exhibition".

The sale on Thursday (Nov 15) of Portrait Of An Artist (Pool With Two Figures) topped the US$80 million estimate.

Among his famous "pool paintings", "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" is considered one of his premier works.

The 1974 biopic "A Bigger Splash" documented its creation, and Hockney himself wrote about the painting in detail in 1988's "David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years".

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

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in NY, said the painting reflects both the European and the United States perspectives of Hockney who went to live in California in the 1960s and saw himself as living on both continents.

The standing figure is said to represent Hockney's former partner Peter Schlesinger, whom the British artist met in 1966 while teaching art classes in California.

Christie's described it as "one of the great masterpieces of the modern era".

The relationship ended in 1971.

Hockney began work on the painting when he was inspired by the random placement of two photos on his studio floor.

David Hockney painting fetches record £70m at auction