Jonathan Horwich, Modern Art Specialist
Who would have guessed that at the Sotheby’s Art auction in 2006, provided you had a spare £2.9 million, you could buy a truly iconic 60’s Splash painting by David Hockney, sell it 14 years later via the same auction house and achieve over a 600% net return on your investment!
This is the story behind Hockney’s painting ‘The Splash’, which comes up for auction again in London next month on Feb 11th. This time it has a £20-£30m estimate – ten times it’s 2006 price tag. The canny vendor has also secured an auction guarantee from a third party, meaning no worries about it selling and no nail biting on auction night. The owner can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show, as whatever happens it’s going to sell. The price achieved back at auction in 2006 was a new world record for Hockney and the Contemporary Art market was steaming ahead. Since then Hockney’s prices have rocketed, and in 2018 Hockney briefly became the most expensive living artist at auction, pushing Jeff Koons out of the top spot with ‘Portrait of an Artist, Pool with Two Figures’ (1972) which sold in NY for £61m.
This got me thinking about other Hockney works that had made more than one appearance on the auction block over the last 10-20 years and how they fared.
Gaugin’s Chair from 1988 first appeared at a 1988 Christie’s Lighthouse charity sale and made £160k, it pops up again in 1998 and makes £23.k, then again in in New York in 2017 where it makes a staggering £6.1m!
‘Picture of a Hollywood Swimming Pool’, from 1964 was first offered from the Stanley Seeger Collection in 2001 when it made £465k. At its next appearance in 2019 in New York it sold for £5.5m.
‘Swimming Pool’ from 1965 first appeared in 2007, when it made £1.2m then it pops up again in June 2012 when it sold for £2.5m.
Another example that shows things don’t always go to plan is that of the other Pool themed picture from 1965 called ‘Different Kinds of Water pouring into a Swimming Pool’. It first comes up in NY in 1989 when it makes £506k; then pops up again in 2018 with a speculative estimate of £6-8m. It fails to sell and then comes up again the following year in 2019, but now with a much more realistic £2.5-3.5m estimate. This time it sells comfortably within the estimate range at just over £2.7m
The David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain in 2017 was a Blockbuster and a total triumph. For me, it acted as a catalyst for the surge in interest in Hockney and his work. ‘Hockney is Tate Britain’s most visited exhibition ever’ was the Tate’s headline after the exhibition ended in 2017. This all-encompassing, totally absorbing, stunningly colourful and magnificent exhibition must surely have stirred everyone who saw it, including me, and no doubt led many major collectors to get in quick before the market runs away from them.