Jasper Johns' Flag (1983) has sold for $36m at Sotheby's New York, beating an estimate of $20m by 80% and setting a new auction record for the artist.
The work was among the headline lots in the November 11 contemporary art evening auction, which realised total sales of $343.6m.
Johns dreamt of the US flag in 1954 and began work on his series soon afterwards. Sotheby's comment: "Executed almost three decades later, Flag of 1983 unarguably represents the most mature and profoundly personal realization of Johns' iconic subject.
"While the flag is a subject that Johns returned to frequently over the course of his career in a variety of different media, including sculpmetal, bronze, lithography, drawing, and printmaking, the encaustic paintings remain the most rarefied and sought after realization of his iconic idea."
Johns commented in a BBC interview in 1965: "Say, the painting of a flag is always about a flag, but it is no more about a flag than it is about a brush-stroke or about a color or about the physicality of the paint, I think."
Johns previous record stood at $28.6m, set for another flag painting back in 2010. This new figure represents a 25.8% increase, indicating the health of the artist's market.
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