David Hockney fetches $90 million at auction, smashing record for living artist

Toby Graves
November 17, 2018

Inspired by the serendipitous juxtaposition of two photographs on his studio floor, Hockney abandoned his first attempt at the painting in 1971 before returning to the idea in April of the following year.

An iconic 1972 painting by British artist David Hockney soared to $90.3 million at Christie's on Thursday.

There is also sudden demand for the work of Hockney, who is 81.

Hockney's previous auction record was $28.4 million.

Alex Rotter, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's in NY, said the painting reflects both the European and the U.S. perspectives of Hockney who went to live in California in the 1960s and saw himself as living on both continents. The successful buyer has not been named, but after premium and commission were added, the final price for the painting clocked in at $90.3 million. The purchaser was a client of Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. One, fully clothed, stands at the edge of a swimming pool gazing down at another, who's submerged. "It has all the elements that you would want in a Hockney painting..."

Lewis, whose collection includes pieces by Picasso, Klimt and Degas, bought the Hockney from fellow billionaire collector David Geffen in 1995.

He began a new work that cast his former lover and favourite muse, California artist Peter Schlesinger, as a young man looking down at a swimming figure.

"He is someone who has an extraordinary eye", said Pylkkanen, who has known Lewis for years.

This week's sales, which kicked off November 11 and included Impressionist, modern, postwar and contemporary art, have generated $1.96 billion, eclipsing the $1.8 billion estimate.

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