When a record shakes the auction world, it is often one of art history's late, great masters. This phenomenon is due to the fact that a living artist can continue to make works, while there is only a finite corpus of work by late artists. However living artists are becoming more in demand, as seen in the recent, record-breaking sale of David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist" at Christie's in November 2018.

Here are the 10 most expensive living artists (five men and five women) and the work that gave them the accolade.

Male Artists

1. David Hockney, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two Figures)

David Hockney, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)", acrylic on canvas, 1972. Image © David Hockney via Christie's. David Hockney, "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)", acrylic on canvas, 1972. Image © David Hockney via Christie's.

The evening sale of Christie's post-war and contemporary art of November 16, 2018 made history when David Hockey became the most expensive artist in the world thanks to his iconic "Portrait of an Artist" (Pool with two Figures) painting that sold for a staggering $90.3 million. The painting is the quintessence of Hockney's work because it contains all the elements that characterize the art of the English-American painter: the pool ("Making water transparency is a complicated challenge that I find always electrifying"), the California sun (which the artist fell in love with and moved permanently to LA) and male physicality (Hockey painted his partners well before the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967). The photo was inspired by a combination of images: the man by the pool is the artist's ex Peter Schlesinger, from a photograph of him in the same pose in Kensington Gardens, and the swimming figure was from a photograph taken in a Hollywood pool.

2. Jeff Koons, “Balloon Dog (Orange)”

Jeff Koons, “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, 1994-2000. Jeff Koons, “Balloon Dog (Orange)”, 1994-2000.

The 2013 post-war art auction of Christie's was also the scene of the second record. Jeff Koons, an American artist, often blurs the line between "high" and "low" art, using everyday objects in his work and transforming them as objects of commercialism and consumerism. His enormous Balloon Dog (Orange) sculpture, made of Limoges porcelain, sold for $58.4 million.

3. Gerhard Richter, "Abstract Framework (809-1)"

Gerhard Richter, Quadro Astratto, 1994. Gerhard Richter, Quadro Astratto, 1994.

Gerhard Richter, a contemporary German artist known for his abstract paintings that employ elements of photography and an intense color palette, became one of the world's most valuable artists with the sale of his painting "Quadro Abstract (809-1)" at Sotheby's in 2015 for $45.8 million.

4. Cui Ruzhuo, “The Grand Snowing Mountains”

Cui Ruzhuo, "The Grand Snowing Mountains", 2013. Cui Ruzhuo, "The Grand Snowing Mountains", 2013.

Chinese artist Cui Ruzho combines elements of ancient Chinese ink paintings with modern methods in his artwork. This eight-panel landscape titled "The Grand Snowing Mountains," executed in 2013, sold at Hong Kong auction house Poly Auction in 2016 for $39.5 million dollars.

5. Christopher Wool, “Apocalypse Now”

Christopher Wool, “Apocalypse Now”, image via Widewalls. Christopher Wool, “Apocalypse Now”, image via Widewalls.

Christopher Wool, an American artist born in 1955, is known for his paintings with irreverent, stenciled black writing on white backgrounds. "Apocalyse Now" is emblazoned with the Marlon Brando quote from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, "Sell the house sell the car." The work was sold in 2013 at Christie's New York for $23.5 million dollars, 18% more than its estimate.

Female Artists

1. Jenny Saville, “Propped”

Jenny Saville, "Propped", 1992, Courtesy Sotheby's. Jenny Saville, "Propped", 1992, Courtesy Sotheby's.

In November 2018, the British artist Jenny Saville became the most expensive living female artist with the sale of "Propped", an oil on canvas painted in 1992. It was sold by Sotheby's London for $12.4 million dollars and is a self-portrait of the artist that challenges the stereotypes of female beauty. It originated from the collection of the late David Teiger, a famous collector and former director of MoMA in New York.

2. Cady Noland, “Bluewald”

Cady Noland, "Bluewald", 1989. Cady Noland, "Bluewald", 1989.

Conceptual artist Cady Noland's "Bluewald", a screen printing on aluminum, sold at Christie's in 2011 for $9.8 million. The work portrays Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1964. Noland's oeuvre focuses mainly on sculpture and explores "the American Nightmare," dark aspects of American culture such as violence and consumerism that are the antithesis of the "American Dream" ideal.

3. Yayoi Kusama, “White No. 28”

Yayoi Kusama, White No. 28 (1960). Image: Christie’s Yayoi Kusama, White No. 28 (1960). Image: Christie’s

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is best known for her ubiquitous polka dots and highly Instagrammable installations like her Infinity Rooms. Her "White No. 28", painted in 1960, achieved $7.1 million in 2014, during one of the most successful post-war and contemporary auctions at Christie's.

4. Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Stills 1977-1980”

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #10, 1978, immagine via MoMA. Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #10, 1978, image via MoMA.

Dubbed "the queen of the selfie," Cindy Sherman is known for self-portraits that ironically portray all the masks and characters that she invents to reflect the fears and obsessions of Western society, as in "Untitled Film Stills 1977-1980." The shots in this series were auctioned in one lot by Christie's for $6.7 million during the same evening sale in which Yayoi Kusama's "White No. 28" sold.

5. Marlene Dumas, “The Visitor”

Marlene Dumas, The Visitor (1995). Image: Sotheby’s. Marlene Dumas, The Visitor (1995). Image: Sotheby’s.

South African artist Marlene Dumas was inspired by Degas' dancers and Munch's atmospheric backgrounds, as well as the concept of the "male gaze," when she was painted "The Visitor", an oil on canvas that depicts five women with their hands behind their backs who look towards an illuminated door in a dark and gloomy room. The work, executed in 1995, was sold by Sotheby's London for $6.3 million in 2008.

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