Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog Sculpture Sells for Record-Breaking $58.4 Million

Balloon Dog - P 2013

Balloon Dog - P 2013

The sum is the highest ever paid for a work by a living artist.

Pop-art provocateur Jeff Koons has broken a world record for a price paid for a single artwork by a living artist. His sculpture "Balloon Dog (Orange)" fetched $58,405,000 at a Christie's New York auction on Tuesday night. High-end estimates suggested it might sell for as much as $55 million. (The previous record-holder was a painting by Gerhard Richter depicting an Italian city square, which sold for $37.1 million in May.) Christie's has released no information as to the identity of the winning bidder.

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The sculpture, standing 12 feet high and crafted out of stainless steel to resemble the kind of novelty a clown might twist into existence at a children's birthday party, was sold on behalf of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut. It is one in a series of five, with other colors in the series -- yellow, blue, magenta and red -- owned by financier art collectors Steven A. CohenEli Broad (whose "Balloon Dog (Blue)" is on display at LACMA), Francois Pinault and Dakis Joannou.

The description of the work in the Christie's catalogue calls it "one of the most recognizable images in today's canon of art history," and "the most beloved of all contemporary sculptures." What is its significance? It evolved "from Koons's desire to re-create the ecstatic experiences of a child's enjoyment of the world with universal signifiers," the entry reads.

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Koons' work graces the cover of Artpop, the new album from Lady Gaga. The CD artwork features a sculpture of the singer straddling a large, blue orb. Describing their first encounter at the Metropolitan Museum's annual ball, Koons told MTV News, "She just kind of grabbed ahold of me and gave me a big hug around my waist and she just said, 'You know, Jeff, I've been such a fan of yours, and when I was a kid just hanging out in Central Park I would talk to my friends about your work.' I was thrilled."

Twitter: @SethAbramovitch