Jeff Koons is, Once Again, Daddy

Koons just sold his 'Rabbit' sculpture for $91.1 million, dethroning David Hockney as the highest-selling living artist.

by Emma Specter
May 16 2019, 4:11pm

Back in November, David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold for $90.2 million became the highest-selling work by a living artist in the world—an honor almost as great as being parodied on BoJack Horseman. Just last night, however, Jeff Koons rode through Christie's to unseat Hockney, selling his 1986 stainless-steel sculpture "Rabbit" for a casual $91.1 million.

Who's the proud new owner of "Rabbit," you ask? Why, it's art dealer Robert E. Mnuchin, father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom you might know best from his marriage to embattled traveler, and triumphant Instagram returnee, Louise Linton. (God only knows what kind of $91.1-million-dollar cameos Koons's sculpture is destined to make in Linton's Insta-presence.)

Mnuchin the Elder "has a regular table at upscale restaurant Cafe Boulud and runs a $1,000 a night luxury bed and breakfast, The Mayflower Inn in Connecticut, which he sold last year to a hotel chain," the Wall Street Journal reported in May of 2016, so adding the world's most expensive piece of stainless steel into the mix feels like a relatively natural fit.

Ironically, before Hockney dethroned him, Koons was previously the reigning champ of ludicrously expensive art, selling his "Ballon Dog: Orange" for $58.4 million in 2013. It's exciting to see the price of iconic art nearly double a mere six years later, especially in a cultural moment where U.S. art and culture funding is increasingly imperiled, but it's also somewhat reminiscent of the "dynasty politics" exemplified by the Bush and Clinton families.

Going from Koons to Hockney back to Koons, with the numbers skyrocketing ever-higher, feels a little dismal when the most expensive work by a living female artist, Jenny Saville's 1992 self-portrait "Propped," sold for $12.4 million, and the most expensive work by a living African-American artist, Kerry James Marshall's "Past Times," sold to Diddy for $21.1 million. At least Hockney's brief time at the top of the art-world food chain constituted queer representation, possibly depicting Hockney's ex-partner Peter Schlesinger (although Schlesinger himself contests the notion that the portrait is, in fact, of him.)

Not to make everything about identity politics (I was born in 1993, sorry!!!), but wouldn't it be nice to see a Lorna Simpson photograph or a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sell at auction for a cool $91.1 million? Maybe someday we'll get there but for now, at least we can all agree that Jeff Koons is daddy, and David Hockney is, unquestionably, baby—until his next big sale, that is.

Jeff Koons
David Hockney
world records
art market