10 Bold and Outrageous David Hockney Quotes

According to Hockney, you can’t have a smoke-free Bohemia.

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 18: David Hockney arrives to the opening press conference of the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) on October 18, 2016 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The 2016 fair, which is among the world's largest book fairs, will be open to the public from October 19-23. (Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images)

Septuagenarian artist David Hockney is known for a lot of things—his remarkable skills as a painter, photographer, and draughtsman, his contributions to the Pop art movement, and the open exploration in his work of gay love as early as 1961 with such works as We Two Boys Together Clinging. One of the things he’s not known for, however, is any reluctance to express his opinions.

In recent years, Hockney has taken to giving interviews in which he spouts off about the lameness of today’s avant-garde, the failures of the New Labour Party, and his favorite subject, why fellow artist Gerhard Richter is overrated. Keep reading for some of Hockney’s most outrageous and unapologetic quotes.

On Gerhard Richter:
1. Hockney recently told Monopol: “To be honest, I don’t really understand Richter. The pictures are quite nice, but also a little like the belle peinture from Paris in the 50s.” Just in case you didn’t get the intent there, he clarified: “And I mean that pejoratively.”

2. It’s not the first time he’s gone to town on the German artist. He told the Guardian in May: “German painters are very good. But Richter, I just don’t understand why they’re $24m.”

On Jeff Koons:
3. He told the Guardian in the same interview: “Jeff Koons is a terrible painter. Terrible painter.”

On the dissolution of bohemia: 
4. Hockney laments the current generation’s abandonment of the bohemian lifestyle: “Bohemia was against the suburbs, and now the suburbs have taken over. I mean, the anti-smoking thing is all anti-Bohemia. Bohemia is gone now. When people say, well wasn’t it amazing saying you were gay in 1960, I point out, well, I lived in Bohemia, and Bohemia is a tolerant place. You can’t have a smoke-free Bohemia. You can’t have a drug-free Bohemia. You can’t have a drink-free Bohemia. Now they’re all worried about their fucking curtains, sniffing curtains for tobacco and stuff like that.”

On gay culture today: 
5. Similarly, he feels that gay culture has been put out to pasture: “I suppose it’s that [gay men today] want to be ordinary—they want to fit in. Well, I didn’t care about that. I didn’t care about fitting in. Everywhere is so conservative.”

David Hockney.

David Hockney.

On the avant-garde: 
6. He told the Spectator: “Nobody’s taking any notice of the avant-garde any more. They’re finding they’ve lost their authority. They thought they would get authority by damaging the other, earlier establishment. But by doing that you damage all authority.”

On Damien Hirst
7. When Hockney’s solo show at the Royal Academy went head-to-head with Hirst’s at the Tate in 2012, he noted on the posters for the exhibition, “All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally,” a dig at Hirst’s well-known habit of using a team of assistants to fabricate his works. However, he later denied that the criticism was leveled directly at Hirst.

On smoking: 
8. Hockney has penned several op-eds for the British press on why he’s against smoking bans. He wrote in the Daily Mail: “I was told by an anti-smoking fanatic (and I know about them as my father was one, although my smoking elder brother has now lived longer than he did, as I will this year) that tobacco ‘killed’ one hundred million people in the 20th Century. I pointed out one hundred million people were killed in the 20th Century for political reasons and their deaths were very unpleasant indeed. You cannot use a word such as ‘killed’ with smokers.”

On the New Labour Party: 
9. In 2008, Hockney told the Independent: “I detest the cultural vandalism that contaminates New Labour. I hope they go—and soon.”

On marijuana: 
10. Hockney is open and unapologetic about his use of cannabis. He told the Spectator: “Why is the stuff still illegal? I assume it’s the power of the alcohol lobby being behind most things. Alcohol has damaged and killed friends of mine, but I’ve never known anyone harmed by the weed, whose relaxing pleasure I have enjoyed for 40 years.”


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