Hockney painting sells for record $124.3m, Arts News & Top Stories

Lewis Collier
November 20, 2018

British artist David Hockney's painting has broken a record as his painting sells for $90m (N32.7 billion) at Christie's, New York.

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 is "all I want to do now at my age". Together the sales signalled a new inclusivity in the art world, driven by a generational shift towards artists who have been out of the mainstream, and driven by stratospheric prices for more established names.

The painting shows two men, one doing the breaststroke underwater while the other watches from the side of the pool. The painting was originally inspired by two photographs Hockney found juxtaposed on his studio floor, one of a swimmer in Hollywood in 1966, and another of a boy staring at something on the ground.

He audaciously offered his Hockney without reserve, meaning he set no minimum price, a sign of how confident he was that it would sell for its estimate of US$80 million or more.

"Absolutely!" Christie's Alex Rotter told AFP when asked if the picture was really worth $90 million.

Not only is the piece simply wonderful, but the fact that Hockney is still alive and kicking at 81 and drawing these kinds of auction prices speaks to his unprecedented influence as a painter. "This is the trophy piece by one of the greatest living artists now, if not the greatest living artist", he added.

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The first man depicts Hockney's former lover and muse, Peter Schlesinger, who was one of his students at the University of California, Los Angeles. According to media reports the owner of a Portrait of the artist was the British billionaire Joe Lewis.

The Hockney had been taken on tour to drive up potential buyer interest, in Hong Kong, London and Los Angeles.

Thursday's sale at Christie's flagship post-war and contemporary evening art sale caps the end of the biannual marquee art auctions held every year in November.

The relationship ended in 1971.

The painting is considered by many to be Hockney's most brilliant and important work, and it's easy to see why.

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