David Hockney’s Work Will Star in a New Annual Auction at Phillips

The first edition of Phillips' fixed auction will include litographs featuring Hockney's iconic motif of swimming pools.

David Hockney, the British artist best known for his serene scenes of California pools, recently turned 86, and the market for his work is aging like a fine wine. Amid increasing demand for his work, Phillips has added a repeating David Hockney auction to its annual calendar.

Lithograph of blue swimming pool with diving board
David Hockney’s Lithographic Water Made of Lines, Crayon, and Two Blue Washes, (1978-80). Courtesy of Phillips

These dedicated Hockney sales kick off with a standalone auction of his pieces on September 20 in London. The David Hockney auction will offer works spanning the artist’s career, from his early 1954 lithographs Woman With a Sewing Machine and Fish and Chip Shop, created as a teenager attending the Bradford School of Art all the way up to his 2018 photographic drawing, Inside it Opens Up as Well. The new sales will include Hockney’s work at varying price points, with entry-level works priced at £1,000 ($1,285) and higher-value pieces offered at £250,000 ($321,000) and above, according to Phillips.

Painting of pastel-colored forest with pink road.
David Hockney’s The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 2 January, (2011). High estimate: £120,000 ($154,000). Courtesy of Phillips.

A growing market for the artist’s work “was made evident to us in the extraordinary response we received to our standalone Hockney auction in September 2022,” said Robert Kennan, head of Phillips Editions in Europe, in a statement. Phillips realized more than $3.9 million at that sale, selling 100 percent of the lots with more than 50 percent of the works setting new auction records.

Hockney was heavily involved in the pop art movement of the 1960s and has focused on landscapes and portraits of loved ones throughout his career, experimenting with mediums from acrylic paint to photography and fax machines. While his work has been lauded for decades, the secondary market for his art has only recently seen a dramatic rise.

His top 19 auction results are all from the past five years, according to data from Artsy. Hockney’s artist record was set in 2018 with the sale of his 1972 Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which sold for more than $90 million at Christie’s and became the most expensive work sold by a living artist at auction until it was later eclipsed by a $91.1 million Jeff Koons sale.

Man gestures to acrylic painting of a man standing by a pool with someone swimming in it
David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which sold for a record-breaking $90 million in 2018. AFP via Getty Images

Why is David Hockney so popular?

Christie’s sold Hockney’s Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott for $50 million in 2019, while Phillips sold Nichols Canyon for $41 million in 2020. That same year, Hockney became the top-selling living artist when more than 511 of his works sold for a total of $132 million at auction. Prominent collectors of his paintings have included Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau and film studio executive David Geffen.

Demand for the British artist’s work rose sharply in 2017, when he was the focus of major retrospectives celebrating his 80th birthday at institutions like London’s Tate and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The visibility helped the market catch up to the renowned artist, whose auction record at the time was just $11.7 million. “You can be certain that that record will be broken in the next year,” Jean-Paul Engelen, then the head of contemporary art at Phillips, told Artnet News at the time.

Vase of pink flowers pictured against blue background
David Hockney’s A Bigger Book, Art Edition B, (2010/2016). High estimate: £20,000 ($25,000). Courtesy of Phillips

Hockney’s constant experimentation with technology has also supported his continued relevance. “Art collectors of all genres and generations have demonstrated a desire to engage with the artist’s ever-evolving concepts,” according to Phillips. The artist’s more recent works have increasingly consisted of drawings on iPads, such as his 2010/2016 piece A Bigger Book, Art Edition B, which will be included in Phillips’ auction this fall.

The artist has even experimented with artificial intelligence (A.I.), showcasing his first work created with the technology at Glastonbury Festival in June. And a series of his iPad paintings were recently exhibited across five galleries in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, taking a group of floral iPad drawings created during the Covid-19 pandemic on tour.

Despite his age, it doesn’t appear that Hockney will be slowing down anytime soon. He’s currently the star of a new immersive exhibition at London’s Lightroom venue, while an upcoming November retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery is set to focus on his portraiture.

David Hockney’s Work Will Star in a New Annual Auction at Phillips