Hockney painting breaks record for most expensive work by living artist

Lawrence Kim
November 20, 2018

A David Hockney painting has been sold for 90 million United States dollars (£70 million), smashing the auction record for a living artist. And it's indicative of a turn in the artist's career, as he began painting his iconic swimming pool landscapes when he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-'60s. That has forced collectors to expand their search for emerging names who might be undervalued. He now splits his time between the UK and the United States.

Seeing this piece in person is an essential bullet point on the bucket list of any self-respecting patron of the arts, or at least it was: In 2017, New York's Metropolitan Museum of the Arts hosted a comprehensive Hockney retrospective that included Pool with Two Figures, in addition to dozens of his other extraordinary creations.

According to the contextual background facts provided by Christie's, Hockney was inspired to make the painting after finding two photographs side by side on his studio floor.

The US$90.3-million price tag is all the more astonishing given the roughly US$20,000 that Hockney told CNN his dealer originally sold the painting for in 1972.

The Hockney painting is a different kind of trophy, by an openly gay artist about the emotional life of gay men. "This is the trophy piece by one of the greatest living artists now, if not the greatest living artist", he added.

Christie's declined to reveal the identity of the seller, but Bloomberg and the Artnet website have reported that it was owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, who owns the Tavistock Group, London Premier League soccer team Tottenham Hotspur, and whom Forbes estimates to be worth $5 billion.

The 1972 painting by Hockney, now 81, is "the holy grail of his paintings, from both the historical and the market perspectives", Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's, said in September.

The standing man is Peter Schlesinger, an artist and Hockney's ex-lover.

The relationship ended in 1971.

A prolific artist who has continued to work well into old age, Hockney told Britain's Channel 4 television in an interview in 2015 that painting was "all I want to do now at my age".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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