Could Christie’s be the new Camelot? Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures, 1972), touted as the “holy grail” of David Hockney’s paintings, sold for $80m ($90.3m with fees) at Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale in New York last night, 15 November, making the British painter the most expensive living artist to date. Controversially sold without a guarantee and without reserve, audience anticipation for the sale was as high as the estimate for Hockney’s rare double pool portrait, particularly during a week of sales peppered by aggressively priced lots that failed to sell.

A hush fell over the room as Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie’s global president and the night’s auctioneer, took to the rostrum, and bidding started off frenzied. Overall, the evening’s sale brought in $311.8m in total ($357.6 with fees), just shy of Sotheby’s $362.6m (with fees) contemporary sale the night before. However, more lots were bought in at Christie’s; of the 48 offered, six failed to sell, representing a passable sell-through rate of 85% by lot versus a princely 97% at Sotheby’s. …Read More

Pictured: Vija Celmin’s Star Field I, sold for $2m ($2.4m with fees) Courtesy of Christie’s