David Hockney, ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), acrylic on canvas, 1972. Photo: David Hockney via Christie’s David Hockney, ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), acrylic on canvas, 1972. Photo: David Hockney via Christie’s

David Hockney (b. 1937), one of the most important English artists of our time, fell in love with Los Angeles in 1964 at the age of 25. On his first trip to the city that was to become his home, his fascination with pools was also ignited. A luxury in England, but a norm in a Californian home, pools would quickly engulf his career.

Preparatory picture for ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’, Le Nid-du-Duc, 1972. Photo: David Hockney Preparatory picture for ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’, Le Nid-du-Duc, 1972. Photo: David Hockney

In 1964, Hockney began a series of experiments where he would depict water with different techniques, effects and colours – a fascination so profound that it would consumer his career for more twenty years to come.

In the 1960s and '70s, after permanently relocating to Los Angeles, Hockney continued to paint pools, combining them with an exploration of homosexuality. This artistic research was documented in the 1974 feature film A Bigger Splash, which would eventually culminate (after working 18 hours a day for two weeks) in Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures). According to many, this work is the most representative of his career to date.

Still from the film ‘A Bigger Splash’. Photo: Jack Hazan/Buzzy Enterprises Ltd via David Hockney and Christie’s Still from the film ‘A Bigger Splash’. Photo: Jack Hazan/Buzzy Enterprises Ltd via David Hockney and Christie’s

Last year, David Hockney, the retrospective dedicated to the artist at Tate Modern, had record numbers of visitors of more than half a million. In 2018, Hockney’s pools could be worth another record.

Christie’s in New York announced it is selling Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) for US$80 million (£61 mil). If it reaches this estimate, it will become the most expensive work by a living artist. The current record is held by Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994-2000) by Jeff Koons, which sold for US$58.4 mil (£44.6 mil) in 2013.

Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) is reportedly owned by billionaire Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based owner of Tottenham Hotspur.

Find all works by David Hockney at auction on Barnebys

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