The Resurgence of Sculpture

With the sale last night of his "Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold)" for

$23.6 million, Jeff Koons is now the

priciest living artist at auction. Now it’s entirely possible that someone

will decide to go the auction-house route rather than the private-dealer route

in selling a major canvas by Jasper Johns, for example – something which

would obliterate the Koons record. But for the time being, the two most expensive

works ever sold at auction by a living artist are both sculptures: the previous

record was a $19.1 million pill cabinet by Damien Hirst.

I’m not clear where this desire for sculpture comes from, given that historically

it has always been the poor cousin of painting. And I’m also not clear how these

kind of things get valued: just within Koons’s Celebration series, it seems

that the heart is worth exactly twice as much as the “Blue Diamond”

which sold at Christie’s on Tuesday for $11.8 million. And Bloomberg reports

that even the heart is "not as desirable as other works in the series such

as ‘Balloon Dog’."

The seller of the heart was Adam Lindeman, who literally wrote the

book on collecting contemporary art. That he’s now uncollecting contemporary

could be a sign that last night’s sale marked a peak in the market for Koons.

Update: The fabulously cantankerous curmudgeon Souren

Melikian makes

the good point that "Hanging Heart" can reasonably be considered

to be a multiple. Has the rise of fine art photography has helped to eliminate

the discount that traditionally applies to multiples?

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