David Hockney Poised to Break Auction Record With $12 Million Painting at Sotheby’s

The acclaimed British artist is having a moment.

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 24, 25 and 26 October, 2006(2006). The painting carries a $9 million–12 million estimate, which would set a new auction record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.
David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 24, 25 and 26 October, 2006(2006). The painting carries a $9 million–12 million estimate, which would set a new auction record for the artist. Courtesy of Sotheby’s New York.

Records could fall at Sotheby’s New YorkContemporary Art Evening Auction” on November 17, where the house is predicting a mammoth $9 million–12 million hammer price for Woldgate Woods, 24, 25 and 26, 2006, a massive 2006 landscape painting by David Hockney.

The acclaimed British artist is having a moment, riding off this summer’s international release of Randall Wright’s documentary Hockney, and looking ahead to the publication of his new book with art critic Martin Gayford, A History of Pictures: From the Cave to the Computer Screen, due out October 18.

Hockney, who will turn 80 next year, will also be the subject of a massive retrospective at Tate Britain, scheduled to run February 9–May 29, 2017. Billed as his most comprehensive exhibition to date, the show will include a number of never-before-seen works.

David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife(1966–67). Courtesy of Christie's New York.

David Hockney, Beverly Hills Housewife(1966–67). Courtesy of Christie’s New York.

According to the artnet Price Database, Hockney’s current record at auction is $7.92 million, set in May 2009 at Christie’s New York with Beverly Hills Housewife. The 1966–67 diptych, from the “California Dreaming” series, is a portrait of the late art philanthropist and photographer Betty Freeman in front of her Los Angeles home.

The artist has had five other sales in excess of $5 million, all over the last 10 years.

This number appears to be somewhat of a sweet spot for Hockney, as none of those lots topped $5.5 million. The first sale at that price point came in 2006 at Sotheby’s London, for the iconic 1966 swimming pool painting, The Splash.

David Hockney, The Splash (1966). Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

David Hockney, The Splash (1966). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Woldgate Woods was among the large-scale works depicting the East Yorkshire landscape that appeared at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in the blockbuster 2012 exhibition “David Hockney: A Bigger Picture.”

A Yorkshire native, Hockney took to the Woldgate Woods in 2006, painting en plein air throughout the seasons, documenting the changes in light and color over the course of the year. He wanted to work on a monumental scale, but the large canvases he had in mind wouldn’t fit up the stairs at his studio, so he combined a number of smaller ones.

David Hockney painting <em>May 17th 2006, Woldgate Woods, East Yorkshire. Courtesy of Sotheby's, photo © Jean-Pierra Goncalves de Lima, artwork © David Hockney.

David Hockney painting May 17th 2006, Woldgate Woods, East Yorkshire. Courtesy of Sotheby’s, photo © Jean-Pierra Goncalves de Lima, artwork © David Hockney.

In honor of the Woldgate series, the local tourist board has set up a “Hockney Trail” that allows visitors to see some of the locations immortalized by the artist. The region has even been informally dubbed “Hockney Country.”

Three prints of works depicting Woldgate have come to auction in recent years (two fetched under $1,000, the third went unsold), but the upcoming sale marks a first for one of the original canvases.

David Hockney, <em>Woldgate Woods 2006</em>(2006). Courtesy of Venator & Hanstein, Germany.

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods 2006(2006). Courtesy of Venator & Hanstein, Germany.

“With the opening of the Tate retrospective early next year, along with collectors’ tremendous appetite for quality, now is the perfect time to present one of the great accomplishments of the artist’s late career,” said Grégoire Billault, head of the contemporary art department, in a statement.

Ahead of the sale, Woldgate Woods will be on view at Sotheby’s London October 1–7, 2016, and at Sotheby’s New York November 4–17. Other potential big ticket items at the auction include a pair of Willem de Kooning canvases—Untitled (1976–77) and Untitled XXXIX (1983)—both of which could fetch $8 million–12 million.


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