An iconic pool painting by David Hockney is set to sell at auction for a record amount by a living artist.

The work, ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’, is heading to auction at Christie’s in New York and expecting to sell for in excess of $80m (£61m). The painting is being sold in November as part of the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale and was recently on show in exhibitions at the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“One was of a figure swimming underwater and therefore quite distorted… the other was a boy gazing at something on the ground,” Hockney once said of the painting which he completed in 1972. “The idea of painting two figures in different styles appealed so much that I began the painting immediately,” he added.

Many believed that Peter Schlesinger, Hockney’s muse is the man looking down at the pool. The work was completed at a time when his relationship with the artist ended. The current owner of the work is thought to be the Bahamas-based billionaire Joe Lewis, also the current owner of Tottenham Hotspur.

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, said at a press conference Hockney’s pool painting was “one of the great masterpieces of the modern era”.

“David Hockney’s brilliance as an artist is on full display with this monumental canvas, which encapsulates the essence of the idealised poolside landscape, and the tremendous complexity that exists within human relationships.

“With this painting, Hockney cemented his placement within the realm of history’s most venerated artists, and come November it is poised to become the most valuable work of art by a living artist ever sold at auction.”

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