Hock­ney paint­ing ex­pected to break auc­tion records

Times Colonist - - Arts - JO­CE­LYN NOVECK

NEW YORK — One of David Hock­ney’s fa­mous “pool paint­ings” is go­ing to auc­tion and is ex­pected to sell in the $80-mil­lion US range, eas­ily break­ing the record for a work by a liv­ing artist sold at auc­tion.

The Bri­tish artist’s Por­trait of an Artist (Pool with Two Fig­ures), to be auc­tioned at Christie’s in Novem­ber, is con­sid­ered one of his premier works. Christie’s has es­ti­mated the work at about $80 mil­lion, but says it ex­pects it to sell for more.

The pre­vi­ous record for a work by a liv­ing artist was set by Jeff Koons’ Bal­loon Dog, which sold for $58.4 mil­lion in 2013.

The 1972 paint­ing by Hock­ney, now 81, is “the holy grail of his paint­ings, from both the his­tor­i­cal and the mar­ket per­spec­tives,” said Alex Rot­ter, co-chair­man of post-war and con­tem­po­rary art at Christie’s. He noted that it re­flects both the Euro­pean and the Amer­i­can per­spec­tives of an artist who came to live in Cal­i­for­nia in the 1960s, and saw him­self as liv­ing on both con­ti­nents.

“It has all the el­e­ments that you would want in a Hock­ney paint­ing,” Rot­ter said. “The Cal­i­for­nia land­scape, the beau­ti­ful trees and flow­ers and the sky, and then what we know him most for, which is the pool.” He noted that writ­ers have re­ferred to the swim­ming pool it­self as be­ing sort of a self-por­trait of Hock­ney, though he never con­firmed that, just say­ing he was fas­ci­nated to paint mov­ing wa­ter.

The paint­ing has been held by a pri­vate col­lec­tor, and “we have been try­ing to get it for a very long time,” Rot­ter said.

A de­pic­tion of two men — one swim­ming the breast­stroke un­der­wa­ter, the other stand­ing by the pool look­ing down — the paint­ing was orig­i­nally in­spired, ac­cord­ing to back­ground pro­vided by Christie’s, 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.

The stand­ing fig­ure is said to rep­re­sent Peter Sch­lesinger, whom the artist met in 1966, when the younger man was a stu­dent in one of Hock­ney’s art classes at UCLA. For the next five years, ac­cord­ing to Christie’s, he was both “the great love of Hock­ney’s life” and one of his favourite mod­els.

The re­la­tion­ship ended in 1971.

Por­trait of an Artist (Pool with Two Fig­ures), by artist David Hock­ney, is ex­pected to sell in the $80-mil­lion US range at auc­tion in Novem­ber.

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