On Tuesday, September 13th, Phillips London held an entire sale consisting of the works of the British artist David Hockney. The seventy-eight available lots, mainly prints and digital works, did as well as one might expect for a collection by one of the most sought-after living artists in the world. Hockney has adopted digital media into his creative process, creating many drawings and prints on his iPad. The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 – 30 May is one such iPad drawing that he printed on wove paper measuring 55.25 x 41.5 inches. It exceeded the £180K high estimate, reaching £270K / $311.3K (or £340.2K / $392.2K w/p). Not far behind was another iPad drawing from the same series, this one being the 19 February entry. Phillips specialists expected this one to do well, but not quite as well as 30 May, assigning an estimated range of £100K to £150K. 19 February ended up selling for £250K / $288.2K (or £315K / $363.1K w/p).
Finally, the third of the sale’s top lots was a work of a more traditional medium. Afternoon Swimming is a 31.5 x 39.5-inch lithograph on paper from 1979. Obviously, with swimming pools and swimmers being some of Hockney’s most popular subjects, the print was bound to bring in a hefty sum. This was likely why experts at Phillips predicted it would bring in up to £400K and take the top spot. Unfortunately, the hammer came down at only £240K / $276.7 (or £302.4K / $348.6K w/p), just £10K shy of its minimum estimate. These three lots are the most expensive Hockney works to sell at auction since his acrylic on canvas painting Two Red Pots sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in May of this year for HK$9.5M (or $1.2M).
Given Hockney’s popularity, it may not be too surprising that bidders paid far more than what was expected for some of the works up for grabs. For example, Hockney’s 1977 etching and aquatint on paper entitled What is this Picasso? from his Blue Guitar series brought in £9.5K / $10.95K (or £11.97K / $13.8K w/p) when it was only expected to bring in £3K. But for me, the most surprising result came rather early on in the sale, with a poster designed by Hockney for the 1972 Munich Olympics. The offset lithograph on paper shows a diver in the midst of plunging into a pool, made rippling by an almost random pattern that reminds me of a blue camouflage print. It was only expected to sell for £1K maximum, and it ended up selling for £4K / $4.6K (or £5K / $5.8K w/p), which, though not as great a sum as some of the other lots’ final hammer prices, was regardless a nice little surprise.
Phillips’ Hockney sale did incredibly well, exceeding its £2M total pre-sale estimate and bringing in £2.65M / $3.1M. Of the seventy-eight available lots, sixty-one (or 78%) sold over estimate, while twelve (or 15%) sold within estimate. The rest sold below estimate as no works went unsold.