David Hockney: exclusive interview with the world's most expensive living artist

We talk to David Hockney about Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), which broke an auction record this week, selling at Christie's New York for $90.3m with fees. Produced in association with Bonhams, auctioneers since 1793.

David Hockney speaking on The Art Newspaper podcast David Clack

David Hockney speaking on The Art Newspaper podcast David Clack

The Week in Art

From breaking news and insider insights to exhibitions and events around the world, the team at The Art Newspaper picks apart the art world’s big stories with the help of special guests. An award-winning podcast hosted by Ben Luke, The Week in Art is sponsored by Christie’s.

In this week's podcast we talk to the world's most expensive living artist David Hockney about Van Gogh and printmaking, learn about the personal heartbreak behind the record-breaking painting with Lawrence Weschler and analyse the trends of the autumn New York auctions so far with our art market editor-at-large Melanie Gerlis.

Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) © David Clack

  • In conversation with David Hockney
  • Speaking of Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972), Hockney remembers the intense process of creating the three-metre piece, which took him three weeks, a far shorter time than other similar-sized canvases such as his 1971 work Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy. Hockney also discusses the exciting technical challenge presented to him by depicting water on which "you can either look on it or look through it", he says, speaking of the visual allure presented to him by the swimming pools in 1960s Los Angeles.

David Hockney, Death in Harlem (1961-3) © Tate/David Hockney

  • On the importance of printmaking in his career, Hockney reminisces on how a lack of funds and sufficient materials to produce paintings led him to the etching department of the Royal College of Art, whereupon he produced a series of award-winning prints, the sales of which funded a trip to New York in 1961. Taken aback by the city's amount of homeless people which he says far eclipsed the numbers in London, Hockney was inspired to create a series of etchings entitled A Rake's Progress (1961-3).

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate (2011) Courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum

  • Finally we discuss the newly revealed upcoming show at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam which will see his imposing Yorkshire landscape paintings, including The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate (2011), displayed alongside masterpieces by Van Gogh. Stating that "Van Gogh could see very clearly" and that he himself could "see quite clearly", Hockney expresses a profound admiration for the artist, both in his quick rate of production and the personal joy he found within painting.

David Hockney, Peter Schlesinger with Polaroid Camera (1977) © David Hockney

  • Lawrence Welscher, the author of True to Life: Twenty-five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, speaks on the "shattering breakup" between Hockney and Peter Schlesinger as key to the enduring popularity of Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures). Welscher also argues that the high estimate on the painting (which at the time of recording this podcast had not yet sold) was due in part to a trio of retrospectives given to Hockney by the Tate, the Centre Pompidou, and the Met, which has added greater "intellectual heft" to the artist's oeuvre.

Van Gogh, Coin de Jardin avec Papillons, May-June 1887 © Christie's Images Limited. 2018

The market reaches its ceiling

  • Melanie Gerlis, the art market editor for The Art Newspaper, speaks of a jittery mood in this autumn's New York auctions. Arguing that the art market, which has been climbing for several years, may have hit its limit for now, Gerlis wonders if the uncertainty of the US mid-term elections may have caused the "nervy mood" amongst buyers. Several key lots failed to sell at Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art auction including Van Gogh's Coin de Jardin avec Papillons (garden with butterflies) (1887). However, Gerlis notes that record sales were still made by artists such as Magritte whose painting Le Principe du Plaisir (the pleasure principle) (1937) sold for $26.4m at Sotheby's.

Hockney/Van Gogh will open at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum on 1 March 2019 and show until 26 May 2019.

Want to find out more?

Read about the controversy surrounding the sale of Hockney's Portrait of an Artist

Explore Hockney's draughtsmanship here

Read more about the underwhelming sales at the New York auctions

The Art Newspaper Weekly podcast is available every Friday on our website and all the usual places where you find podcasts including iTunes, Soundcloud and TuneIn. This podcast is brought to you in association with Bonhams, auctioneers since 1793. Find what defines you. bonhams.com/define