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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

David Hockney painting expected to break auction records

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

This undated photo provided by Christie's Images Ltd. 2018, shows a painting by David Hockney entitled 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures).' AP
This undated photo provided by Christie's Images Ltd. 2018, shows a painting by David Hockney entitled 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures).' AP

One of David Hockney’s famous “pool paintings” is coming to auction, and is expected to sell for around US$80 million (Dh293.8 million) , breaking the record for a work by a living artist at an 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. The auction house says it expects it to sell for more than estimated.

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,” says 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 says. “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 pool as being sort of a self-portrait of Hockney, though he never confirmed that, just saying he was fascinated to paint moving water. It has been held by a private collector, and “we have been trying to get it for a very long time,” Rotter explains.

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. The upcoming sale, Rotter says, “will definitely be a record for David Hockney at auction.”

But who will buy an $80 million painting? “It will be someone who wants the best painting of an artist,” Rotter explains, “and the best painting of an artist with historical relevance.”

He added: “Wherever it ends up, I can tell you it will be surrounded by other top works of the 20th century.”

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