FILE PHOTO: An employee poses with an auction catalogue as she views ‘The Splash’ by David Hockney on display ahead of the Contemporary Art auction at Sotheby’s in London, Britain, February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
LONDON (Reuters) – David Hockney’s Los Angeles pool painting “The Splash” fetched 23.1 million pounds ($29.9 million) at a sale on London on Tuesday, auctioneers Sotheby’s said, compared with a pre-sale estimate of 20 to 30 million pounds.
The 1966 work is a square acrylic painting showing the moment water splashes up in a swimming pool just after a diver enters.
The 82-year-old British artist painted it when he lived in Los Angeles, where his long-running interest in swimming pool subjects began.
The composition of “The Splash”, including the angled diving board, was inspired by a photograph Hockney saw in a Hollywood magazine on how to build swimming pools.
“I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds,” he said of the painting in a 1976 book, Hockney by Hockney.
It is the second in a series of three splash paintings. “A Little Splash” is in a private collection and “A Bigger Splash” is in London’s Tate Britain gallery.
The last time this picture was sold at auction, in 2006, it went for 2.9 million pounds ($5.4 million).
“It’s an icon of Pop that defined an era and also gave a visual identity to LA,” said Emma Baker, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale.
In 2018, Hockney’s “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” from 1972 sold for $90.3 million at Christie’s in New York, smashing the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist.
Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Giles Elgood