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Jeff Koon’s Rabbit Makes History

Jeff Koon is one of the most famous American artists mainly known for creating objects produced from stainless steel with a mirror-like finish. Koon rose to his ultimate fame when his 1986 steel sculpture rabbit was sold for $91.1 million at Christie’s. Making it the most expensive work by a living artist in history sold at auction by breaking David Hockney’s record set just this past November of his 1972 “Portrait of an Artist” sold for $90.2 million at Christie’s.

Rabbit was from the late publishing magnate S.I. Jr. collection. Six of Jeff Koon’s items were auctioned from the collection at Christie’s and collectively fetched about $115 million. Jeff’s previous record was set when Jose Mugrabi bought Balloon Dog for $58.4 million in 2013. Back then, it set the record for the most expensive creation by a living artist until Hockney surpassed Koon’s sales before ironically being dethroned by Koon again in 2019.

So who is the buyer of this distinctive 3 and a half foot-high, 33-year-old piece of art? Well, the winning bid was from the famous Robert E. Mnuchin, an American art dealer and also the father of Steven Mnuchin, the 77th secretary of the treasury.

The bid surpassed way beyond Christie’s estimates, which were of about $50 million to $70 million. The deal was allegedly made on behalf of a client he refuses to disclose.

The sculpture itself is different and unique, unlike postmodern art. It personifies a delicate yet childish aura, with its metallic mirror finish. Its crystal clear reflection could be symbolic in a way. The way all reflections are displayed differently, similarly all perceptions of the art might differ as well. Perhaps to some it comes off as a lighthearted joke judging by its somewhat giddy and childish appearance whereas to others it might express strong values.

Jeff’s iconic creation is a faceless bunny-like creature that gives off the illusion of it being a balloon, though it’s not. Initially, only three of these were created plus one kept with the artist himself as proof. The piece auctioned this year was the last one in the hands of a private individual while the rest have been preserved as part of the collections of the Board Art Foundation in Los Angeles as well as the National Museum of Qatar and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Despite Koon’s recent success, he has had an uneven career life in the industry. His sales stooped low in 2017 due to the decreasing demand for his newer creations, resulting in a de-escalation of his studio. However, he rebuilt his reputation and revived his career in 2019 by making history in the world of art and gaining immense popularity worldwide.

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