How to Spend It: Collectors Love David Hockney and Massimo Vitali Pool Scenes

Hockney sold his first painting for a mere £10.

David Hockney, Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966).
Image: Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery.


David Hockney, Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966).Image: Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery.

David Hockney, Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966).
Image: Courtesy of Richard Gray Gallery.

Aching for the perfect poolside scene to hang on your wall? Here, we take a look at two artists known for their magnificent handling of the subject: David Hockney and Massimo Vitali.

David Hockney, one of the most expensive living British artists, recently made headlines with his scathing remarks about Gerhard Richter. “To be honest, I don’t really understand Richter,” he told Monopol. “The pictures are quite nice, but also a little like the belle peinture from Paris in the 50s. And I mean that pejoratively.”

Hockney is a key figure of the Pop art movement of the 1960s and his auction records show it. His serene poolside paintings and pictures of modern houses now command millions at auction. It’s hard to believe he sold his first painting for a mere £10.

“David Hockney is one of the most hotly collected artists,” Paul Gray, director of Richard Gray Gallery, told artnet News. “His work seldom comes up in the market.”

When asked about Hockney’s idyllic poolside paintings, Gray said, “For the average person who doesn’t know the breadth of his work, that’s the work he became most famous for in the 60s and 70s. If they come on the market, they tend to sell for a lot relative to their size.”

According to Gray, prices of Hockney’s poolside paintings can range from $1.5-4.5 million. His most expensive work sold at auction, according to artnet’s Price Database, is Beverly Hills Housewife (1966), which sold at auction for $7,922,500. At the more reasonable end of the spectrum, you can also pick up a print, My Pool and Terrace (1983), estimated to sell for under $10,000 at artnet Auctions’ Summer Steals sale.

Massimo Vitali, Pegli West (2000). Photo: courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.

Massimo Vitali, Pegli West (2000).
Photo: Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.

Also known for his water-filled scenes is Massimo Vitali, the Italian photographer who has captures exotic and action-packed beaches around the world. His most expensive work at auction, Rosignano (diptych) (2004), fetched $151,000 at Phillips in 2008.

“Vitali’s photos are micro elements of a larger landscape he’s looking at,” said Rachel Smith of Benrubi Gallery. “It’s all about how we consume leisure and where we go en masse.”

Indeed, Vitali’s faded out pictures of the Italian seaside reflect lives lived in leisure and are great for those who enjoy staring at beautiful people sunbathing and swimming—who wouldn’t?

The 71-year-old artist has cited Gerhard Richter and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, which Gursky attended, as his main influences.

“I am interested in people and I am interested in the stories that people have behind them,” Vitali told Art Dependence. “When you have a certain amount of people, you have a large number of stories that you can watch.”

Vitali’s work can be found in the collections of the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museo Luigi Pecci in Prato.

More accessible options from Vitali start at $35,000 and usually come in editions of six.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
  • Access the data behind the headlines with the artnet Price Database.
Article topics