Having recently enjoyed major exhibitions in London, Paris, New York and beyond, David Hockney is one of England’s most prolific and important artists. Despite being in his eighties, his career shows no signs of slowing down – and neither does his secondary market. Here we discuss his top-performing artworks at auction, including the record-breaking Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures).
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), $90,312,500 (£70.7million)
Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) became not only the most expensive work by Hockney at auction when it sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 November 2018, but also the most expensive work by any living artist at the time. The painting – which combines Hockney’s iconic swimming pool and double portrait themes – sold for almost $30 million more than the previous record set by Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) from 2013. The painting is among Hockney’s most famous artworks, appearing in his 2017 landmark retrospective at Tate Britain and even satirised in the Netflix cartoon Bojack Horseman.
Watch the bidding for Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures):
Henry Geldzahler And Christopher Scott, £37,661,250
Between 1968-75, Hockney made a series of seven double portraits – one of them being the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Henry Geldzahler and his then-boyfriend, painter Christopher Scott. When Henry Geldzahler And Christopher Scott came up for auction at Christie’s in London on 6 March 2019, it was one of just two double portraits remaining in private hands. The painting had previously been offered at Sotheby’s in New York in November 1992, where it realised $1.1 million – 27 years later, its value in dollars was close to $50 million.
Hockney had met Geldzahler at Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’ in 1963. “Henry and I got on along instantly,” Hockney said later, recalling that they bonded over a love of opera, painting, Cuban cigars and that they shared the same birthday – 9 July.
Nichols Canyon, $41 million (£30.7 million)
Nichols Canyon captures the Hollywood Hills neighbourhood where Hockney lived in 1980. The artist drove through this landscape every day on his way to his studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. “The moment you live up here, you get a different view of Los Angeles. First of all these wiggly lines seem to enter your life, and they entered the paintings,” Hockney recalled. The painting sold for $41,067,500 at Phillips in New York on 7 December 2020.
The Splash, £23,117,000
“Everyone knows a splash can’t be frozen in time, so when you see it like that in a painting it’s even more striking than in a photograph,” Hockney has said. A sister painting to the famous A Bigger Splash in the Tate collection, The Splash, made in 1966, sent ripples through the art market when it sold for over £23 million at Sotheby’s in London on 11 February 2020. Bloomberg News speculated that the seller was the Hong Kong billionaire, collector and fugitive Joseph Lau; the auction house declined to comment. The Splash was previously sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2006, where it achieved £2.9 million – a £20 million profit in 14 years for the seller, whoever he or she is.
Sur La Terrasse, $29,501,250 (£22.9million)
Hockney and artist Peter Schlesinger met in 1966, when Schlesinger was a history student and Hockney was a summer school drawing tutor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The two became friends and later lovers, with Schlesinger posing for many of Hockney’s paintings – including Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures). By 1971, however, the couple had grown apart. Hockney and Schlesinger unsuccessfully tried to rekindle their relationship on a trip to Morocco – the poignant and sorrowful Sur La Terrasse was based on a series of photographs taken from the couple’s balcony at La Mamounia hotel in Marrakech. The painting was hidden in the same private collection for nearly 50 years before it was offered at Christie’s in New York on 13 November 2019, where it achieved $29.5 million.
Pacific Coast Highway And Santa Monica, $28,453,000 (£22.2million)
The most expensive work by Hockney at auction at the time, Pacific Coast Highway And Santa Monica soared past the previous auction record when it was offered at Sotheby’s in New York on 16 May 2018. The large landscape was inspired by the artist’s drive from his house in Hollywood Hills to his studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. As Hockney would listen to opera while driving, he affectionately nicknamed this commute his “Wagner drive”. “Anyone who had been on my Wagner drive would immediately recognise Pacific Coast Highway [and Santa Monica] – a multiple view of Santa Monica Bay and the mountains,” he wrote in 1993.
Portrait Of Sir David Webster, £12,865,000
On 22 October 2020, the Royal Opera House in London put a painting of their former chief executive up for auction at Christie’s to raise vital funds after long months of COVID-19 lockdown. Portrait Of Sir David Webster, estimated for at least £11 million, sold for £12.8 million to David Ross, the co-founder of Carphone Warehouse. A month after the sale, Ross announced on Twitter that he plans to loan the painting back to the Royal Opera House.
30 Sunflowers, HK$114.8 million (£11.7 million)
30 Sunflowers, which achieved HK$114,827,000 at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on 9 July 2020, marked Hockney’s return to painting after nearly a decade dedicated to photography. The artist was inspired to paint again after visiting exhibitions on Claude Monet and Johannes Vermeer. The floral masterpieces of these artists – as well as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin – is clear in 30 Sunflowers.
As Hockney once said: “Nature is great. Van Gogh worshipped nature. He might have been miserable, but that doesn’t show in his work. There are always things that will try to pull you down. But we should be joyful in looking at the world.”
Double East Yorkshire, £11,287,200
Double East Yorkshire, painted in 1998, was one of Hockney’s first Yorkshire landscape pictures and also one of the largest. Hockney was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, but lived between London, Paris and the United States for almost four decades from the 1950s onward. In the 1990s, he returned to Yorkshire more frequently to visit his ailing mother. When asked what inspired him to start painting East Yorkshire and the Wolds, Hockney replied: “It’s a landscape that I’ve known since childhood, so it has meaning, but I never thought of it as a subject until 10 years ago. It is full of lovely little valleys and not many people.”
Double East Yorkshire sold for nearly £11.3 million when it was offered at Sotheby’s in London on 26 October 2018. It was last sold at the same auction house in 2013, where it achieved £3.4 million – an increase of £8 million in five years.
Montcalm Interior With 2 Dogs, $12,718,000 (£9.8million)
After spending 20 years hidden in a private collection, Montcalm Interior With 2 Dogs came up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York on 14 November 2018, where it achieved $12.7 million against an estimate of $9-12 million. The painting previously belonged to American TV writer, producer and 10-time Emmy Award winner Steven Bochco. Bochco, a fan of Hockney’s art, hung the painting prominently in his Los Angeles home and called it his favourite piece from his art collection.
Piscine De Medianoche (Paper Pool 30), $11,743,800 (£8.7million)
Inspired by Hockney’s friend’s swimming pool in Westchester County in New York State, Piscine de Medianoche was briefly the most expensive artwork by Hockney at auction. When it sold for $11.74 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York on 16 May 2018, was just overtook the previous record of $11.7 million, set by Woldgate Woods in 2016. Ten lots later, however, was Hockney’s Pacific Coast Highway And Santa Monica (no.5 on our list), which sold for $28,453,000 – beating Piscine de Medianoche to become the most expensive Hockney artwork at auction.