David Hockney overtakes Jeff Koons as most expensive living artist at auction

An auctioneer takes bids for the sale of David Hockney's Portrait of an Artist at Christie's in New York

The buyer's premium of the portrait took the final price to $90,312,500, the auction house announced.

David Hockney dethroned Jeff Koons as the most expensive living artist at auction when his painting, owned by billionaire Joe Lewis, fetched US$90.3 million (S$124 million) at Christie's.

The painting depicts two men _ one swimming the breaststroke underwater, the other standing by the pool looking down.

"Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" surpassed the previous record of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his "Balloon Dog" sculptures.

It sold following a 10-minute battle between two rival bidders via telephone, after the price passed $70m.

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in NY, told the Associated Press in September that it is "the holy grail" of Hockney's work.

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

Hockney's sold his painting for $18,000 in 1972.

Bradford-born Hockney, 81, was inspired to paint the picture by two photographs he found on his studio floor, one of a swimmer in Hollywood in 1966 and another of a boy staring at an item on the ground.

The sales across rival houses offer a chance to see works often not viewed in public for decades and theatrical displays of purchasing power by a new generation of buyers, more global than ever.

The previous record was held by American artist Jeff Koons, whose massive, stainless steel piece Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million U.S. at a Christie's NY auction in November 2013.

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