A sculpture of a kneeling Hitler by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan was sold for a record $17.2 million (Rs 114 crore) by Christie’s on 8 May.
It kicked off week of highly-anticipated auctions in New York featuring modern, post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
The controversial sculpture Him appears as a small child kneeling in prayer when approached from behind. But from the front, the likeness of Hitler comes into view.
Christie’s describes the work as: “quite simply one of the most shocking and disquieting works of art to have emerged in the post-war era”.
Cattelan added: “Hitler is everywhere, haunting the spectre of history; and yet he is unmentionable, irreproducible, wrapped in a blanket of silence.
“I’m not trying to offend anyone. I don’t want to raise a new conflict or create some publicity; I would just like that image to become a territory for negotiation or a test for our psychoses.”
The 2001 piece is made with human hair, wax and polyester resin.
Him has caused outrage several times when exhibited in the past.
In 2010, the mayor of Milan forbid the reproduction of a poster illustrating a black-and-white photograph of Him.
In 2012, the work was publicly exhibited in a former ghetto in Warsaw, where an estimated 300,000 Jews died of starvation or disease or were sent to their deaths in concentration camps under Nazi rule, Christie’s said in its press release.
“I wanted to destroy it myself,” Cattelan has previously said of the work, according to Christie’s.
“I changed my mind a thousand times, every day. Hitler is pure fear.”
The statue was sold Sunday to an anonymous bidder by telephone.
The ‘Bound to Fail’ themed sale auctioned a ball suspended in a water tank called One Ball Total Equilibrium by Jeff Koons for $15.3 million, just over its $12 million estimate.