On 20 September 2023, Phillips London hosted their David Hockney dedicated sale, which ushered resounding success. With a 100% sell-through rate, this white glove sale achieved a sales total (hammer) of £1,378,600. With 55% of the 58 lots fetching above their presale estimates, and just 12% falling below, this sale certainly proved the preeminence of this Modern British Master.
Perpetually innovative and productive, Hockney's career has spanned almost 70 years so far. The cherished British artist continues push boundaries with his penchant for digital drawings, and his technologically inventive shows like the much-celebrated retrospective at Lightroom. In anticipation of Hockney's upcoming show at the National Portrait Gallery, titled Drawing From Life, it is no surprise that Hockney continues to captivate the art world and market alike.
While auctions dedicated to the prints and multiples category saw rising unsold rates in September 2023, Hockney's market appeared totally immune to any market uncertainty at Phillips. Though this sale performed lower than the previous Hockney-dedicated sale at Phillips in September 2022, which brought in £2,649,750 (hammer) - +95% against the low presale estimate - this sale comparatively presented 20 fewer lots. Both this sale and last year's saw astonishing success with 100% sell-through rates, showing Hockney to be a force to be reckoned with - a rare position for a living artist.
Here are the top-performing works from the sale:
Undeniably, the crowned star lot of the sale was Hockney's The Arrival Of Spring In Woldgate, East Yorkshire 2nd January 2011. The work originates from his celebrated Arrival Of Spring series, an homage to Hockney's adoration of the Northern English landscape after returning to his native Yorkshire in 2011, and is undoubtedly one of the artist's most sought-after bodies of work. This was the auction debut for this particular work, and it certainly didn't disappoint. With a presale estimate of £80,000 - £120,000, bidders rapidly surpassed the high estimate and the work hammered for £180,000. Realising an astonishing £228,600, the first time auction appearance attested to the general reverence for this series, which was delineated on Hockney's iPad.
Amongst this eclectic sale were two of Hockney's earliest lithographs, both executed in 1954 at the beginning of his long career: Woman With A Sewing Machine and Fish And Chip Shop. Hockney created these works at just 17 years old, while he was studying at the Bradford School of Art. The works - which rarely appear at auction - offer a glimpse into Hockney's formative stages as an artist; revealing his enduring love of colour, pattern, and intimate interactions between his subjects.
Both works exceeded their high presale estimates: Woman With A Sewing Machine realised £21,590 (surpassing the £15,000 high estimate), and Fish And Chip Shop realised an impressive £57,150 (far-surpassing the £20,000 high estimate). The latter lithograph has not appeared in auction since December 2000, where it sold at Christie's for £3,800 (hammer) against a £4,000 - £6,000 estimate. Clearly, demand is rising for Hockney's early works as his career and market matures.
Also performing phenomenally at the Phillips sale were a series of four of Hockney's A Bigger Book, Art Editions. All of these lots achieved within, or exceeded, presale estimates, and afforded collectors the opportunity to purchase the 680-page chronology, an adjustable book stand by Marc Newson, alongside an iPad drawing printed on archival paper. A Bigger Book, Art Edition A achieved a particularly strong result. Far exceeding the £20,000 high presale estimate, this lots realised £33,020. Indeed, demand remains high for this now-cult classic chronology, alongside its vibrant print.
Unsurprisingly, Hockney's swimming pools also performed exceptionally at this sale. One of the artists' most renowned and defining motifs, the swimming pool works feature Hockney's unique approach to mark-making when it comes to delineating waves. Of the three pool works which were offered at the auction, Lithographic Water Made of Lines, Crayon, and Two Blue Washes achieved the highest amount - realising £120,650. Likewise, Lithographic Water Made of Lines and Crayon also hammered at its high presale estimate of £90,000 and realised £114,300.
Far exceeding its high presale estimate of £30,000, Pool Made with Paper and Blue Ink for Book - from Hockney's Paper Pools portfolio - realised an impressive £50,800. Once again, this formidable sale is a testament to the unrelenting popularity of this signature subject in Hockney's oeuvre.
Amidst this career-spanning sale, Hockney's 1986 Self Portrait achieved a record price of £57,150, far surpassing its high presale estimate of £30,000. From his Home Made Prints series, this self portrait was executed using a Xerox photocopying machine to layer various textures and mediums in a single work. The print is an early instance of Hockney's technological innovation, paving the way for his later experimentation with Photo Collage and the iPad.
Two particularly successful sales were achieved by works from Hockney's Moving Focus series, the artist's largest print portfolio. Uniting an amalgamation of different styles and techniques, the series is one of Hockney's most ambitious; the 26 lithographs depicting a wide variety of subject matter. From this series, An Image of Gregory far exceeded its £35,000 high presale estimate, and realised £82,500. Likewise, the vibrant Hotel Acatlán: Second Day also surpassed its £70,000 high presale estimate to achieve £107,950.
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