Jeff Koons breaks records as bunny sculpture sells for $91 million

The American creative's 'Rabbit' is now the most expensive work sold at auction by a living artist

epa07574743 (FILE) - US artist Jeff Koons poses by his work 'Rabbit' during a press view of the exhibition 'Pop Life, Art In A Material World' at the Tate Modern in London, Britain, 29 September 2009 (reissued 16 May 2019). According to media reports, Christie's auction house in New York, USA sold 'Rabbit,' a 1.04 meter high stainless steel sculpture, for 91,075,000 USD (about 81,2 million EUR), exceeding the previous record price for the work of a living artist. There are three copies and one artist's proof of the artwork created in 1986.  EPA/DANIEL DEME
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A sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons sold on Wednesday for $91.1 million (Dh334.6 million) at an auction organised by Christie's in New York – a record price for a living artist.

Rabbit, a stainless steel casting of an inflatable rabbit, was the star of the auction house's spring sale and overtook the previous record set by British painter David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which sold last November at Christie's for $90.3 million.

It was a return to the top for Koons, 64, whose Balloon Dog (Orange) for five years held the record for highest price reached at auction for a living artist after its 2013 sale for $58.4 million.

A 1986 "Rabbit" sculpture by American pop artist Jeff Koons is on display in this image released by Christie's auction in New York, U.S., May 16, 2019.   Courtesy Christie's/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

The selling price of Rabbit was only $80 million, but once commissions and fees were added, the final total rose to $91.075 million.

In an unusual turn for an art auction at this price range, the buyer of Rabbit was actually in the room during the sale.

Created by Koons in 1986, Rabbit is among the best-known works by the artist, who built a reputation for challenging art world conventions.

He has exhibited his larger-than-life creations worldwide, including a 2008 showing in France's historic Chateau of Versailles that so jarred French traditionalists a small group of them protested outside the event, demanding Koons's works be sent to "Disneyland".

At 41 inches in height, Rabbit was auctioned from the collection of deceased publishing mogul S I Newhouse.

Before his death in 2017, his empire included Conde Nast, which published magazines like Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

Alexander Rotter, chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, described Rabbit as "the most important piece by Jeff Koons and I want to go even a step further and say the most important sculpture of second half of the 20th century".

"It's the end of sculpture. It's the anti-David as I call it," he said, referring to Michelangelo's masterpiece. "You can't go any further away from David still being figurative and a traditional sculpture."

In this undated photo provided by Christie's Images LTD, a 1972 painting entitled "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)," by British artist David Hockney is shown. The painting, considered one of Hockney's premier works, was sold at auction by Christie's in New York for $90.3 million. (David Hockney/Courtesy of Christie's Images LTD via AP)

The sale was a new triumph for the controversial artist, who since his emergence in the 1980s has been the subject of endless conversation over his work's commercial and artistic value.

Arriving in New York in 1976, Koon has built up a studio that at its height in 2015 employed more than 100 artisans tasked with meeting his exacting standards.