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The $90M Inflatable Rabbit Redefining Modern Art

Rabbit

Meet Jeff Koons, the American who now enjoys the title of “most expensive living artist in the world”. Now, meet the rabbit that got him there… A recent auction at Christie's saw Koons’ Rabbit 1986 sell for $91.07 million with fees. That’s $1.4 million more than another blockbuster sold by Christie’s in November--a painting by David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972).

Christie's record auction night opened with bidding at $40 million. After just ten minutes of bidding, Rabbit sold for a hammer price of $80 million to art dealer Robert Mnuchin, the father of Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary.

“The rabbit, I would say, is one of the most famous works of Jeff Koons’ career, and in fact, one of the most famous artworks of the last 40 or 50 years,” Scott Rothkopf, the curator, said.

Long before the auction, many had questioned the Rabbit’s significance in modern artwork. In his review of Rabbit , Alex Rotter, the chairman of the post-war and contemporary art department at Christie’s drew a parallel to Michelangelo’s David (1501–1504) suggesting that the Rabbit is a revolutionary piece of art.

“For me, Rabbit is the ‘anti-David,’ which signaled the death of traditional sculpture—disrupting the medium in the same way that Jackson Pollock’s Number 31 (1950) permanently redefined the notion of painting. From my first day in the auction world—this is the work that has represented the pinnacle of both contemporary art and art collecting to me,” said Rotter.

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Of course, not everyone shares Rotter’s enthusiasm for the nearly-billion-dollar  inflatable bunny, even if Energizer is likely tempted to latch on.

“He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida,” wrote late critic Robert Hughes.

In their headline of the Koons retrospective, The Guardian writes: “Great, good, bad and terrible art”.

Some in the art community have criticized Koons for designing work that's too self-promotional and earning the title of “King of Kitsch”.

Any way you slice it, Koons is undeniably a celebrity with an important role in modern art--whether he is the King of Kitsch or the Next Michelangelo, or perhaps the next Pollack or Andy Warhol.

Of course, the critics also like to point out that he better fits the “King of Kitsch” throne but pointing to his first wife, Ilona Staller, a former Italian lawmaker known in the porn world as “Cicciolina” and was said to have offered to have sex with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to avert the 1990 Gulf War.

But if the measure of art is how much it comes from within and is not born out of desire for money and fame, perhaps Koons is a true artist.

"Some people certainly think that my work is kitsch, but I never see it that way. What I’m saying to people, actually, is that they shouldn’t erase their past, that they should blend together everything they are and move forward... My work simply tells people not to reject any part of what they are, to take their history on board,” said Koons.

At the end of the day, art is whatever everyone wants it to be, and in this case, they think an inflatable rabbit is worth $90 million. It doesn’t really matter what the critics say at this point.

By Michael Scott for Safehaven.com

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