In recent art world news, British artist David Hockney’s iconic painting “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972) set an auction sale record for a living artist when it sold for an astonishing $90.3 million in mid-November at Christie’s in New York. Previously, American artist Jeff Koons’ steel sculpture “Balloon Dog (Orange)” (1994-2000) held the auction sale record for a living artist when it sold for $58.4 million in November 2013 at Christie’s in New York.
The masterwork blends two of Hockney’s overriding themes from the late 1960s and 1970s, “the glittering abstraction of the pool from his swimming pool landscapes and the emotional complexity of his double portraits.” It appears at first that the painting depicts the idyllic Los Angeles moment, but the scene is actually in the south of France, not the Hollywood Hills, and the pool is from British filmmaker Tony Richardson’s villa there.
According to Christie’s, the sale of Hockney’s painting generated much advance excitement. The auction house was packed, despite a New York snowstorm, with art collectors, advisors, dealers and media filling both the main sale room and an overflow room as 600 people seated and 60 more standing watched the iconic work go up on the auction block. Christie’s estimated that the painting would sell for about $80 million. A bidding war went on for over nine minutes (considered very long in auction terms) until the painting was sold. The auction house won’t reveal the identity of the winning bidder.
Earlier this year, in May, Hockney’s “Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica” (1990) sold at Sotheby’s in New York for $28.5 million, which set a new personal auction record for the artist at the time. The recent $90.3 million sale more than triples the artist’s record. “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” is an older and seminal work, which accounts for the much higher sum it fetched.
It will be interesting to see if any future sales of Hockney works will surpass the artist’s new impressive auction sale record for a living artist.