David Hockney’s painting “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” broke artistic records when it sold for $90.3 million with fees at the New York auction house Christie’s. Painted in 1972, it depicts two men, a sparkling pool, and a scenic landscape. Hockney has surpassed auction records for any living artist, skyrocketing above artist Jeff Koons, whose “Balloon Dog” sculpture previously held the slot at $58.4 million.
What sets Hockney’s painting apart is that it was created by a gay artist who openly expresses his views of a gay man’s emotions through his work. It is an extremely exceptional circumstance to see artwork that deals with same-sex topics being sold at this price point. A multitude of attendees used their phones to record this legendary moment. Even Jake Gyllenhaal was in attendance, although he did not place a bid on Hockney’s painting.
Hockney began his art career in England during the early 1960s, and has wealth of experience as a painter, a draftsman, and a stage designer. But his work did not always receive high praise. He was criticized for his use of bright color and ultra-realistic figures. Even Hockney called his early work that of a “peripheral artist, really.”
Nevertheless, Hockney is enjoying his success as the subject of three record-breaking art retrospectives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Tate Britain. Although the 81-year-old has lost his sense of hearing, he still paints and dabbles in digital art. This May, his 1990 painting “Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica” was purchased for $28.5 million. His work has been sold for over $10 million since 2016.