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Staff Report

NEW YORK, 15 NOVEMBER 2007—A new record for a living artist at auction was set when Jeff Koons’ stainless steel Hanging Heart brought $23.6 million yesterday at Sotheby's evening sale of Contemporary Art in New York. Sold to Gagosian Gallery to applause, Hanging Heart, 1994-2006 is considered one of the most important works by Koons ever offered at auction. The sculpture was offered for sale by a private American collector and had a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $20 million. Its sale price included an auction house commission.

The bright magenta heart and gold undulating bow, which took ten years from conception to completion, is one of five uniquely colored versions of this work from Koons’ Celebration series. The perfect surface is coated in more than ten layers of paint. Executed in high chromium stainless steel, Hanging Heart weighs over 3,500 pounds (1,600 kg), is almost nine feet  (2.7 meter) tall and took over 6,000 man hours to produce.

Jeff Koons: Hanging Heart, 1994-2006
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Hanging Heart had its premiere at the first public unveiling of selections from the François Pinault Collection at the inaugural exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2006. The French department store magnate and owner of Christie's, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent had acquired the 18th century palace after losing patience with the French government for a project to house his 2,500 contemporary art collection on an island in the Seine southwest of Paris. On Tuesday, at a Christie's auction, Gagosian Gallery bought Koon's Diamond (Blue) sculpture for $11.8 million, more than doubling the price paid for Koon's Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture in 2001.

An astute American artist with a head for business (former Wall Street commodities trader), Koons (b. 1955 ) also earned a reputation as a "bad boy" thanks to his work in the early 1990s depicting him having sex with then-wife Cicciolina, the Italian porn star-cum-politician.

The previous record for a living artist at auction was for Damien Hirst’s pill cabinet, Lullaby Spring, which sold for $19.2 million at Sotheby’s London in June. The price almost reached the record for a Contemporary sculpture, currently held by David Smith’s Cubi XXVIII, which sold for $23.8 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2005.

Related CK Archives

The Warhol Economy  

Where Are We Going?: Selections from the François Pinault Collection

Jeff Koons Retrospective

The Death of God: Damien Hirst

Chris Ofili: Devil's Pie

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