A rabbit sculpture made of stainless steel just made history as the most expensive piece of art ever sold at an auction at Christie’s.
Measuring just over 3 feet tall, Jeff Koons’ “Rabbit” sold for more than $91 million at Christie’s in Manhattan, New York, going way beyond auction estimates. The winning bid came from art dealer Bob Mnuchin, who said that he made the purchase on behalf of a client.
It surpassed the previous record made just six months before, when David Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” sold for $90.3 million last November, also at Christie’s. Before that, the British painter overtook the previous record holder – Koons’ “Balloon Dog (Orange)” sculpture – that sold for $58.4 million in 2013.
Christie’s estimated that Rabbit would sell for between $50 and $70 million. But after more than 10 minutes of bidding, the faceless sculpture received a winning bid of $80 million during the auction house’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. Accounting for auctioneer’s fees, the final sale price totaled $91,075,000.
Rabbit was created in the year 1986, and Christie’s described it on their website as “one of the most iconic works of 20th-century art”.
“This stainless-steel sculpture is at once cute and imposing, melding a Minimalist sheen with a cartoonish sense of play. It is crisp and cool in its appearance, yet taps into the visual language of childhood; its lack of facial features renders it inscrutable, yet its form evokes fun and frivolity,” they wrote.
Koons, who lives and works in New York and York, Pennsylvania, produced three sculptures, plus one artist’s proof. One is found at the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles and the other is set to be displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago by its owners.
The artwork was first revealed in 1986 at Ileana Sonnabend’s gallery in New York, and its last public exhibition was in 1998. Rabbit comes from the collection of the late media royalty S.I. Newhouse, who bought it in 1992 for $1 million.
The artwork is easily recognizable, as it has appeared on the cover of books, magazines, and exhibition catalogs. In 2007, a blow-up version of it appeared in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“I think the Bunny works because it performs exactly the way I intended it to. It is very seductive shiny material and the viewer looks at this and feels for the moment economically secure. It’s most like the gold- and silver-leafing in church during the baroque and the rococo. The bunny is working the same way. And it has a lunar aspect, because it reflects. It is not interested in you, even though at the same moment it is,” Koons said of Rabbit.
How about you, what do you think of Rabbit?