A stainless steel rabbit by artist Jeff Koons fetched $91 million at Christie’s, establishing an auction record for a living artist.
The winning bid came from art dealer Bob Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s father, who was in the sales room and said he made the purchase on behalf of a client.
Estimated at $50 million to $70 million, it was part of a group of works consigned by the family of late media mogul Si Newhouse. The 3-foot-tall inflatable silver bunny was offered during Christie’s postwar and contemporary art evening auction Wednesday in New York.
For the past two weeks, the piece occupied a temple-like rotunda at Christie’s, displayed in blazing white light on a pedestal under an oculus.
For Alex Rotter, the rabbit represents the end of sculpture and the antithesis of “the perfect man,” Michelangelo’s David.
“He is young, he’s muscular,” said Rotter, chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s. “He has long arms, strong legs. He’s carved by one of the greatest artists of all time with a chisel, out of one block of the purest white marble. The end of this is not a computer screen because that’s not a carved figure. The end is a small bunny.”
The 1986 “Rabbit” was a hit from the start. Newhouse bought it in 1992 for about $1 million, a large sum at the time, according to Rotter.
The price at Christie’s, which includes the buyer’s commission, returns Koons to the top of the art world. Koons had been the most expensive living artist at auction as recently as November, when he was ousted by David Hockney, whose “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” sold for $90.3 million.
Koons’s previous auction high was $58.4 million for an orange balloon dog, also at Christie’s.