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David Hockney painting sells for record-breaking £70 million in New York

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is one of Hockney's most famous works. Credit: PA

A David Hockney painting has smashed the auction record for a living artist - selling for £70 million.

Hockney's 1972 work Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) went under the hammer at Christie's in New York on Thursday, and was snapped up for $90 million.

The previous record for a living artist was American Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog sculptures, which went for £45.6 million in 2013.

Both the buyer and seller of Portrait of an Artist remain unknown.

Hockney, 81, began work on the painting four decades ago. Credit: PA

British artist Hockney, 81, was inspired to paint the picture by two photographs he found on his studio floor, one of a swimmer in Hollywood in 1966 and another of a boy staring at an item on the ground.

The painting shows two men, one doing the breaststroke under water while the other watches from the side of the pool.

The standing figure is said to represent Hockney's former partner Peter Schlesinger, whom the British artist met in 1966 while teaching art classes in California.

Hockney had already begun the painting when they split up in 1971. After a break, he resumed the piece the following year.

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in New York, said that it is "the holy grail" of Hockney's work.