A sculpture of German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler kneeling in a childlike pose has sold for $17.2 million in an auction held by Christie’s, fetching more than was expected for the controversial piece.
Created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, the work is called “Him.” It led the auction house’s over $78 million haul for a 39-lot sale of post-war and contemporary art that Christie’s said challenges “traditional notions of commercial success.” The sale price for “Him” was a record for a Cattelan piece. It also sold more than the projected range of $10 million to $15 million.
Christie’s said the piece sold after over five minutes of bidding.
“The depth of interest for this works speaks to its international notoriety, and its ability to breach the boundaries of fine art and popular culture, forcing the viewer to reconsider challenging questions about action and absolution,” said Loic Gouzer, deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art in a statement.
Interestingly, the piece is controversial to even the artist who created it. Cattelan is quoted by Christie’s as saying he thought of destroying it himself, saying Hitler is “pure fear; it’s an image of terrible pain. It even hurts to pronounce his name.”
Ultimately, Cattelan says he doesn’t intend to offend anyone, but wants the piece to be a “test for our psychoses.”
The second greatest seller for the auction was a piece called “One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank” by American artist Jeff Koons, which sold for $15.3 million. Christie’s will continue to sell post-war and contemporary pieces throughout the week.