David Hockney’s Pool Painting Poised to Break Auction Record

David Hockney could be the most expensive living artist as his painting is poised to smash the auction record. Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) will be offered at a Christie’s sale this November, expected to fetch in the region of US$80m.

This masterpiece by David Hockney (b. 1937), one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century, could be the most valuable work of art by a living artist ever sold at auction. The estimated price of US$80m is almost three time the current record set by the artist. The most expensive work by David Hockney is Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990), which was sold for US$28,453,000 at Sotheby’s New York in May this year.

Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica (1990) is currently the most expensive painting by David Hockney

Portrait of an Artist starred in many exhibitions, including Hockney’s travelling retrospective organised by the Tate Britain, the Centre Pompidou and Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017-2018.

David Hockney at his restropective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The painting shows a swimmer underwater and the other of a boy staring at something on the ground, as if the boy was staring at the swimmer. The man standing at the edge at the pool depicts Hockney’s former lover and muse, Peter Schlesinger.

In 1966, Hockney met the eighteen-year-old Schlesinger, who was a student in one of Hockney’s advanced art classes at UCLA. Schlesinger was the great love of Hockney’s life as well as a favourite model for the next five year.

Parts of Portrait of an Artist

Hockney had begun the painting in October 1971 but abandoned the first incarnation of the canvas around the same time as the dissolution of his romance with Schlesinger. Portrait of an Artist was created during a highly productive period following the devastating end of the artist’s relationship with Schlesinger.

Though Christie’s declined to confirm the owner’s identity, it is reported that the painting is owned by Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire and owner of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The 81-year-old billionaire is an avid collector of art and his collection includes works by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and Lucian Freud.

The British billionnaire Joe Lewis is reported to be the owner of Portrait of an Artist 

The painting will be on public display in Hong Kong at the end of September, followed by viewings in London and Los Angeles. We will see if this Hockney’s pool painting will break the current auction record for any living artist set by Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange), which was sold for US$58,405,000 at Christie’s New York in November 2013.

Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog (Orange) holds the auction record for any living artist. It was sold for $58,405,000 at Christie’s in 2013

David Hockney (b. 1937). Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures).

Size: 213.5 x 305 cm
Painted in: 1972
Estimate: US$80,000,000

Auction details
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Hong Kong|28-29 September 2018
London| 3-5 October 2018
Los Angeles|23-27 October 2018
Sale date: 15 November 2018