Art market

Object lessons: from a medicinal Damien Hirst to a splashy David Hockney

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Our pick of highlights from the next fortnight's fairs and auctions

David Hockney's The Splash (1966). Sotheby’s, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, London, 11 February Estimate: £20m-£30m.

The second in a series of three Splash paintings by David Hockney, this work was executed when the British artist first moved to California in his late 20s, where he fell in love with both Los Angeles and the author and artist Peter Schlesinger, who would become the artist’s muse. The similar A Bigger Splash (1967) is in London’s Tate Modern, while A Little Splash (1966) has never been on the market. Hockney’s pool paintings, fetishising the light and affluent cool of California, are currently most prized by collectors—in November 2018, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) sold for a record $90.3m at Christie’s New York. If this painting lives up to the estimate, the consignor will make a splashy profit—they bought it in 2006 for £2.9m at Sotheby’s London. A.B.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811). Fine Books and Manuscripts, Swann, New York, 20 February. Estimate: $30,000-$40,000.

A pristine first edition of Sense and Sensibility dated 1811 is simply stated as “by a lady” on its author page. It is, of course, by the “culture industry juggernaut known as novelist Jane Austen”, says John D. Larson, Swann’s specialist for literature and art books. The tome is a rarity: printed across three volumes, all in surviving period binding, it is part of a series of four “triple-deckers” published during her lifetime offered at the auction house, including Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Increasingly scarce on the market, “it is scarcer still to find all of them going under the hammer in one sale”, Larson says.

Damien Hirst's Bodies (1989). 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, Phillips, London, 13 February. Estimate: £1.2m-£1.8m.

In 1989, when Robert Tibbles bought Damien Hirst’s Bodies, one of the first medicine cabinets the artist created for his degree show at Goldsmiths that year, little did the bond trader and art collector know that his £600 purchase would become a milestone in the history of contemporary British art. Tibbles likens the work to Duchamp’s Bottle Rack (1914): “You’re looking at something incredibly ordinary in a different way.” The trader bought the piece from the late German dealer Karsten Schubert. Through Schubert and the White Cube founder Jay Jopling, Tibbles went on to amass a 30-strong collection of Young British Artist (YBA) works between 1988 and 2004, which will now be sold at Phillips, with a combined estimate of around £4m. Hirst himself installed Bodies in Tibbles’s London flat, later rehanging it after it fell off the wall.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 320 February 2020