David Hockney’s “California Dreaming” Painting Poised to Sell for Upwards of US$12m at Phillip’s Upcoming New York Sale

Phillips New York’s upcoming 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale will take place at the auction house’s new Park Avenue headquarters on June 23. It will offer a total of 50 lots, encompassing works by modern, post-war, contemporary, and American masters. 

The marquee event is led by David Hockney’s seminal painting, A Neat Lawn, which is expected to fetch between US$12m to US$18m. Other highlights include Wayne Thiebaud’s landscape and a lost painting by Sir Winston Churchill. 

Lot 13 | David Hockney, A Neat Lawn

Painted in 1967
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 243.2 x 246.4 cm
Provenance: (Organized by The Value)

  • Kasmin Limited, London
  • Galerie Rudolph Springer, Berlin
  • Mr. and Mrs. G. Webb, London
  • Sotheby & Co., London, December 4, 1974, lot 66
  • Galerie Meyer-Ellinger, Frankfurt
  • Private Collection
  • Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1988, lot 680
  • Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
  • Christie’s, New York, May 9, 2006, lot 42 (Price realized: US$3,600,000)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$12,000,000 - 18,000,000 


A Neat Lawn is from Hockney’s renowned “California Dreaming” painting series from the late 1960s. Since his first visit to California in 1964, the British artist had been enthralled with the city. Quintessentially California, swimming pools, palm trees, and perpetual sunshine are some of the most important inspirations behind his oeuvre. 

Swimming in the pools in sunny Hollywood was one of Hockney’s favorite pastimes. “Water is done in quite different ways. Sometimes I did it very formally, other times it’s done more naturalistically... the way the light would dance on the water. And really the paintings about water are about movement aren’t they?" he once said. 

Hockney with the present work in his North Kensington studio, photographed in 1968

The present work painted in 1967, a year after he made California his permanent home, is the manifestation of the artist’s fascination with the fleeting movement of water. The painting depicts a modest structure typical of the suburban middle-class neighborhoods located just a few blocks away from Hockney’s new home. 

His newfound captivation for lawn sprinklers is combined with his experimentations on the dynamics of light and water, as expressed in the strong shadows cast by the cave and across the hedges as well as the glistening blades of grass.

The estimated price of US$12m is more than three times when it last hit the auction block in 2006, when it was sold for US$3.6m, a record price for the artist at the time. His current record is held by a 1972 painting titled Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which was sold in 2018 for US$90.3m.

Two of Hockney’s lawn sprinklers works painted in 1967: A Lawn Sprinkler (left) and A Lawn Being Sprinkled (right)

His record-breaking work, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), sold for US$90.3m at Christie’s New York, December 2018

Lot 21 | Wayne Thiebaud, Winding River

Painted in 2002
Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 182.9 x 152.7 cm

  • Allan Stone Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2002

Estimate: US$6,000,000 - 8,000,000


Making its auction debut, Winding River by Arizona-born artist Wayne Thiebaud, estimated at US$6m to US$8m, is another lot to watch. Among one of the largest rivercapes by the 100-year-old artist’s riverscapes, the present work encapsulates his longstanding reverence for the Sacramento River Delta in California and immerses the viewer into an expansive vista of a sinuous river meandering through the valleys of California. 

The rich Impressionist and Fauvist colorway offers the scene with a gleaming tranquility while Thiebaud’s iconic halo effect seen in his oeuvre juxtapose the glistening river with the slightly muted pastel tones that render the landscape.

Lot 14 | Vija Celmins, Untitled (Ocean)

Painted in 1987-1988
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 36.2 x 41.9 cm

  • McKee Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in December 1992

Estimate: US$5,500,000 - 6,500,000 


The present work by American-Latvian contemporary artist Vija Celmins, carries an estimate of US$5.5m to US$6.5m. Untitled (Ocean) depicts a painted, photo-realistic ocean surface with no horizon or shore in sight. 

Celmins would make visits to Venice Beach, seven blocks away from her studio in Los Angeles and take photographs of the Pacific Ocean. Using her lens as a looking device, Celmins produced her first ocean paintings in the mid-1980s, in a series of graphite pencil on paper drawings. The process allowed her to experiment with varying density and tone of graphite to recreate the light and shadow of the waves. 

The artist became inspired by how the photographic lens distilled the three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional surface that renders an image in suspending reality. And as Celmins began working again in oil on canvas, she took the subject matter of the ocean as an expression of the infinite. 

Lot 26 | Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (940-2)

Painted in 2015
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 117 x 96.2 cm

  • Wako Works of Art, Tokyo
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$4,500,000 - 5,500,000 


German abstract painter Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (940-2), which is estimated to fetch upwards of US$4.5m, comes from his renowned series.  

Richter began to produce abstract art in the 1960s and his techniques matured in the 1980s. Through his iconic “squeegee” technique, in which he would smear and scrape across wet paint to relinquish any intended compositional elements laid down on a canvas, revealing the paint-stained preparatory layer underneath, the artist alludes to the theme of landscape, a subject often seen in his photorealistic paintings prior to the Abstraktes Bild series. His abstract paintings capture an atmosphere akin to a post-impressionistic translation of landscape scenery in the world of Western art. 

Lot 12 | Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, Bananas

Executed in 1984-1985
Acrylic, silkscreen ink and oilstick on canvas
Dimensions: 222.9 x 206.7 cm

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 


Executed between 1984 and 1985 by the “Pope of Pop” Andy Warhol and the much younger Neo-Expressionist protegé Basquiat, Bananas is a historical artefact of an important art collaboration between two contemporary icons. 

In 1982, Warhol was already an established figure in the industry and had been at the heart of the art establishment for over 20 years at the time when he met Basquiat, who was a big fan of Warhol from an early age. The two first met through their shared gallerist Bruno Bischofberger, who brought Basquiat to Warhol’s studio for a photoshoot. Basquiat returned with a painting that he did based on their double Polaroid portrait after an hour or so. Warhol was very impressed with the speed at which Basquiat painted, and the friendship between the unlikely pair began to blossom then. 

Warhol (left) and Basquiat (right) working together on another artwork, Clearboy, photographed in 1984

With recreating icons of consumerism and capitalism in mind, the present work is an exemplification of the two artists’ artistic lexica. Warhol’s renderings of logos and store prices sit well with Basquiat’s scrawled bananas, uncontained axioms, and hieroglyphs. Their individual takes through the layered imagery accentuate and enrich the composition without a trace of artistic cacophony. 

There has been a surging demand for Basquiat's artworks this season in particular, driven by avid Asian collectors. His 1982 painting, Warrior, renewed Asia's auction record for the most valuable Western artwork just three months ago in Hong Kong. As the major art auction hub just wrapped up its spring auction series, Phillips' upcoming sale in New York would serve as an important indicator of whether or not Basquiat can take his market reign to the West.

Lot 6 | Winston Churchill, The Moat, Breccles

Painted circa August 1921
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 76 x 63.3 cm

  • The Artist
  • Aristotle Onassis (gifted by the artist circa 1961)
  • Thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Another artwork that celebrates friendship, The Moat, Breccles by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was a gift to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. The painting of a verdant landscape was long thought to be lost. About 40 years in Churchill’s collection and half a century after the statesman gifted the painting to Onassis, it will hit the auction block for the first time, with a presale estimate of US$1.5m to US$2m.

The painting was hung in the saloon of Onassis’ superyacht, the Christina, where the two developed their friendship over eight cruises in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic between 1958 and 1963, when Churchill was in his 80s. 

Churchill and Onassis on the Christina, Onassis’ family yacht that entertained celebrities and business titans such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and John F. Kennedy

Still from the documentary “The Other World of Winston Churchill,” showing The Moat, Breccles in situ on the Christina

The painting depicts a river scene and verdant landscape of Norfolk, England, where the cousin of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, resided. The painting was last seen by the public in the 1964 documentary "The Other World of Winston Churchill," which was filmed on the Christina.

Known for being a keen amateur painter, Churchill’s Impressionist-style painting of a sunlit Marrakech, tilted Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque was sold at a Christie’s London sale for an auction record price of £8.3m (US$11.5m) in March this year.

Winston Churchill’s Tower of the Koutoubia Mosque, sold for £8.3m (US$11.5m), March 2021

Lot 7 | Matthew Wong, Fielded in a Dream

Painted in 2014-2017
Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 220.3 x 170.2 cm

  • KARMA, New York
  • Private Collection, Chicago
  • KARMA, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 


In the midst of an ebullient color palette, the works by Matthew Wong are often tinged with a melancholic yearning. Fielded in a Dream, which is estimated to fetch US$1.5m to US$2m, depicts a lone figure wandering on an indefinite, dreamlike path along the landscape of flora. 

Closer look at the present work 

The artistic dialogue between two modernist influences - the vivid colors of Fauvism and powerful emotions of Expressionism, conjure on the canvas to form the terrain between sleep and wakefulness. 

The self-taught Chinese-Candian contemporary artist created about 1,000 works before his tragic passing at the age of 35. His painterly approach is often compared to Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Edvard Munch. Wong’s current auction record was set by River at Dusk, which was sold for HK$37.8m (US$4.9m) at a Phillip’s Hong Kong sale.

Matthew Wong’s River at Dusk, sold for HK$37.7m (US$4.9m), December 2020

Other highlights of the sale include:

Lot 22 | Mark Rothko, Untitled

Executed in 1969
Acrylic on paper mounted on panel
Dimensions: 123.5 x 102.9 cm
Provenance: (Organized by The Value)

  • Marlborough Gallery, York
  • Private Collection, Connecticut
  • M. Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired in 1981)
  • Stephen Mazoh & Company, New York
  • Phillip Schrager, Omaha (acquired from the above in November 1983)
  • Christie’s, New York, May 12, 2014, lot 70 (Price realized: US$3,637,000)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$3,500,000 - 4,500,000

Lot 25 | Takashi Murakami, Red Demon and Blue Demon with 48 Arhats

Executed in 2013
Acrylic, gold and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board, in 5 parts
Dimensions: 300 x 500.1 cm

  • Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014

Estimate: US$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Lot 36 | Andy Warhol, Mao

Executed in 1973
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Dimensions: 66.4 x 55.9 cm

  • Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
  • Knoedler & Company, New York
  • The Artist
  • Paul Bianchini, New York
  • Kimiko and John Powers, Colorado
  • PaceWildenstein, New York
  • Mugrabi Collection, New York
  • Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Demarchelier, New York
  • Stellan Holm Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in December 2005

Estimate: US$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Lot 17 | Brice Marden, Elements III

Painted in 1983-1984
Oil on canvas, in 4 parts
Dimensions: 213.4 x 92.1 cm

  • The Pace Gallery, New York
  • Douglas S. Cramer, Los Angeles
  • Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

Estimate: US$3,200,000 - 3,800,000 

Lot 27 | Joan Mitchell, Untitled

Painted in 1964
Oil on canvas 
Dimensions: 195.3 x 114.3 cm

  • Estate of the Artist
  • Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York
  • Cheim & Read, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013

Estimate: US$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Lot 37 | Georg Baselitz, Drei Herzen (Three Hearts)

Painted in 1963
Oil on canvas 
Dimensions: 130.2 x 164.8 cm

  • Ludwig Rinn, Munich
  • Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg and Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich
  • Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
  • The Dürckheim Collection (acquired from the above)
  • The Dürckheim Collection, Sotheby’s, London, June 29, 2011, lot 10
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: US$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 


Dates: June 17 - 23, 2021
Time: Mon - Sat | 10am - 6pm ; Sun | 12 - 6pm

Auction Details:

Auction house: Phillips New York
Sale: 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Date: June 23, 2021 | 7pm EDT
Venue: 432 Park Avenue, New York, NY, United States, 10022