David Hockney painting auctions for record $90M

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A painting by David Hockney has sold for US$90million (AUD $124million), a record price for a living artist.

It was acquired after nine minutes of intense bidding during Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art auction in NY on Thursday evening.

The previous record was held by Jeff Koons's "Baloon Dog (Orange)", which sold in 2013 for $58.4 million.

The packed sales room in NY broke into applause when the hammer fell, with the buyer's premium and commission taking the final price to $90.3m. It is one of the 81-year-old artist's "pool paintings" and is considered one of his premier works.

The single most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction was the eye-watering $450.3 million paid for Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" a year ago at Christie's in NY.

The price went far to boost the success of Christie's post-war and contemporary art auction, which took in a total of $357.6 million, roughly the middle of its expected range, with 41 of the 48 lots on offer finding buyers.

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Upon his return to London, Hockney worked 18 hours a day for two weeks to complete the new painting before it was scheduled to be sent to NY.

His painting depicts two men, one swimming under water while the other watches from the side of the pool.

"I must admit I loved working on that picture", Hockney has said.

The standing man is Peter Schlesinger, an artist and Hockney's ex-lover.

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

Hockney had already begun the painting when they split up in 1971.

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