$91 Million New Record for Living Artist
A 3-foot-tall silver bunny just set an art world record. Rabbit, by the playful and controversial artist Jeff Koons, sold for more than $91 million — the most for work by a living artist at auction.
Rabbit, a stainless steel casting of an inflatable rabbit, was the star of the auction house's spring sale and overtook the previous record set by British painter David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)", which sold last November for $90.3 million. Previously, Koons held the distinction when his orange Balloon Dog sold for $58.4 million in 2013.
The stainless steel sculpture is a faceless space bunny, a balloon that's not a balloon. The piece was one of 11 works that were offered from the collection of magazine publisher S.I. Newhouse, the longtime chairman of Condé Nast who died in 2017.
Rabbit was described as melding "a Minimalist sheen with a naïve sense of play." The auction house further editorialized: "It is crisp and cool in its appearance, yet taps into the visual language of childhood, of all that is pure and innocent. Its lack of facial features renders it wholly inscrutable, but the forms themselves evoke fun and frivolity, an effect heightened by the crimps and dimples that have been translated into the stainless steel from which it has been made. ... The steel surface of the titular bunny initially appears smooth and balloon-like, the forms reduced to some abstract, Platonic ideal."
Created by Koons in 1986, Rabbit is among the best-known works by the artist, who built a reputation for challenging art world conventions. The sculpture was cast in an edition of just three, plus an artist's proof. The one sold Wednesday was the last one in private hands, with the others in the collections of the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the National Museum of Qatar.
The sculpture has become something of a cultural icon. Case in point: Rabbit was turned back into a balloon to float above Manhattan in the 2007 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.