David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), 1972, sold for $90.3 million on the block a couple of days ago at Christie’s in New York. I’m aware that this is old news, but it seems that whenever a piece of art sells for an extraordinary amount of money the inevitable question arises- Why? Just to be clear I am not up for discussing why we can’t compare art’s intrinsic value and worth to human needs – that’s a whole other conversation for another time, but rather why this piece in particular and not another. . .

  1. Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two Figures, 1972) is considered Hockney’s most iconic painting – his most loved, reproduced and recognized – a trophy piece.
  2. The work unites 2 of Hockney’s most revered themes- rippled swimming pools and double portraiture fuelled with the emotional complexity of interpersonal relationships.
  3. Hockney boldly portrays gay life at a time when many did not.
  4. The painting reverberates with tension and pain of love lost – painful, honest heartbreak – his own. The standing figure represents his former lover and from what I understand the love of his life, Peter Schlesinger.
  5. Rarely does the opportunity arise to buy one of an artist’s best and most iconic works.
  6. Brought right down to it this is simply a case of supply and demand and perhaps a bit of ego. Two serious collectors in a bidding war will most certainly ramp things up.
  7. Provenance- coming from the collection of Joe Lewis (via David Geffen’s)whose collection holds works by Bacon and Freud among other British artists.
  8. Scale /it’s big
  9. Why not?