Fall auction season always seems to coax some of the art world’s most covetable treasures out of storage strongholds, and that definitely seems to be the case when it comes to the Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art sale that will take place on November 13. For 46 years, Sur la Terrasse, by the inimitable pop art fabulist David Hockney, went unseen by the public due to the fact that it was sequestered within a private collection. However, after all this time, the vivid and tender painting, which elegantly depicts the agonizingly slow decline of a relationship, is going to once again hit the auction block and is estimated to sell for between $25-45 million.
“Sur la Terrasse is an extraordinarily beautiful work, which provides a window into the conclusion of David Hockney’s relationship with his muse and longtime love, Peter Schlesinger,” Ana Maria Celis, head of Evening Sale, Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s said in a statement. “This work marks a momentous turning point in the artist’s personal and professional lives. The tenderness and nostalgia of this moment is unmistakable in Schlesinger’s position with his back facing the artist, as he looks into the wilds that lie beyond their hotel terrace in Marrakesh.”
Hockney himself has been keeping busy in recent years: in September, the updated PACE gallery in the West Village debuted new drawings by the artist, who is currently 82 years old. His advanced age, and the fact that collectors and commentators alike have been lately assessing the fruits of his long career, are both likely contributing factors to the astronomical auction prices that Hockney has been pulling in lately. In November of 2018, Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, sold at auction for a record-breaking $90,312,500, a world-record price for a still-living artist, and his auction going prices have been steadily escalating for years. Sur la Terrasse isn’t likely to break Hockney’s 2018 record, but with his star power seeming to reach ever new heights, there’s a possibility it could blow past its high of $45 million.
At a time when most artists are either retreating from the spotlight entirely or coming to terms with the fact that they never drew the spotlight in the first place, Hockney is thriving. Eat your heart out, Peter Schlesinger.