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David Hockney: Royal Academy

It's an Olympic year for artists too, and first out of the blocks is David Hockney: A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy. Like the athletes competing in London this summer, Hockney – now a veteran at 74 – has spent the past four years pushing himself beyond his limits in preparation for what could be the defining test of his career. The result is one of the most ambitious shows in the Academy's 244-year history: more than 150 works, some of them gargantuan, more than 80% of which have been made specially for this exhibition and the particular spaces of this light-filled gallery.

For Edith Devaney, co-curator of the exhibition, the most invigorating part of the process has been watching the new paintings emerge first-hand. "Like David, we didn't know what to expect, but we knew it would be exciting," she says. "I remember him saying to me when we started off this process, 'We won't get this wrong.' And I thought, 'No, we won't.'"

Hockney has always dabbled in landscapes – notably his photo collages of the Grand Canyon and Pearblossom Highway in the 1980s and 90s when he was still in the States – but they have been a sustained focus of his work since he returned to live in Bridlington, East Yorkshire a decade ago. In recent years he has produced paintings at a complusive rate, first with watercolours then oils, and most recently on his iPhone and iPad. "David's not actually that interested in technology, he's just interested in other methods you can use to make art," she explains. "The work he did on his iPhone is charming, but the work he does on his iPad has the painterly quality of his oils – it's astonishing."

Another new direction for Hockney is his use of film. Showing as a world exclusive at the Royal Academy his films are created by nine high-definition cameras pointing in fractionally different directions – the result has been described as a "moving cubist collage".

"It has the same multiplicity of perspectives," says Devaney. "When you look at this film you feel as though you are seeing the world through David Hockney's eyes."

With Hockney's canny knack for self-promotion – he recently declined to paint the Queen because he was "very busy painting England actually, her country" – marketing expectations for the show are off the scale. As a private and independent institution, the Royal Academy is not obliged to supply a projected attendance, but there are whispers that A Bigger Picture could challenge the 1999 Monet exhibition, which hosted 813,000 visitors. Demand was so relentless back then that the Academy opened its doors 24 hours a day, a UK first. "In principle we'd do that again," says Jennifer Francis, head of press and marketing. "Certainly in the final few weeks, if we think people will be there at three in the morning."

Advertising for the show will have local, national and international targets – from buses in Bradford to the LA tourist board. "It's the first time I've bought space on buses up and down the country," says Francis. "There is a massive buzz about this exhibition."

Published in News

Art by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index over the past 10 years, according to a new measure by Artnet AG designed to rank the performance of art as an asset.

Since 2002, Hirst’s prices have increased almost threefold, though they had risen fivefold through 2007 and have since fallen, according to a graph compiled by Artnet using its new product. Warhol has performed even better, with prices gaining fourfold and almost returning to peak 2007 levels this year. The S&P 500 has risen about 7 percent in the decade.

Art is gaining ground as an alternative investment, with many new collectors coming from the financial industry and from emerging markets, Hans Neuendorf, the Chief Executive Officer of Artnet, said in an interview in Berlin. The company’s new product is designed to help investors compare value.

“This makes investing in art much more reliable,” Neuendorf said. “Art has been a good investment over the past 10 years, but there are big differences in performance among artists. It’s more interesting to look at individual artists, in the same way that you look at stock-market segments, or individual companies.”

The art market has sustained its boom as stocks and bonds collapsed this year. While the S&P has fallen 1.3 percent, annual sales of contemporary art rose 35 percent from the previous year at the main 2011 auctions at Sotheby’s (BID) and Christie’s International, according to Bloomberg News calculations. New buyers from the U.S., Russia, Asia and the Middle East raised the bidding.

Lichtenstein, Richter

Records were set for painters including Roy Lichtenstein, L.S. Lowry, Clyfford Still and Gerhard Richter.

“There are more and more collectors, and people will pay more and more for art,” Neuendorf said. “Art as an investment form has only really been discovered in the last years.”

Hirst underperformed in Artnet’s index of the top 50 contemporary artists, which more than tripled over the decade. His prices peaked in 2007, with an average sale price of $901,214, Artnet data shows. That was a year before his “Beautiful Inside My Head For Ever” auction in London, which took $126.6 million with fees on Sept. 15, 2008, the day Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed the biggest bankruptcy in history.

Thomas Galbraith, head of analytics at Artnet, said he wants eventually to refine the data even further so that investors can “compare the performance of Warhol’s Elvises versus his Marilyns,” he said. Artnet also plans to be able to compare the price of an artist’s works by medium, he said. The market reports can be purchased individually for $50.

Published in News

Three champion British artists line up in London for a grand parade of exhibitions at the start of Olympic year. First out is David Hockney, whose “A Bigger Picture” (Jan. 21-April 9, 2012) will fill the main galleries of the Royal Academy almost entirely with new pictures.

In recent years, Hockney has been hard at work in a quiet corner of East Yorkshire. When asked to paint a portrait of the Queen, he replied that unfortunately he was, “very busy painting England actually, her country.”

He has not only been painting it, he has been drawing it on his iPad and experimenting with a hi-tech medium consisting of high-definition images taken by nine cameras pointing in slightly differing directions. The results, a sort of moving Cubist collage, will be unveiled to the world at the exhibition. The RA recommends booking in advance for this exhibition. Rumor has it that the projected attendance may exceed the previous record at the venue held by one of Hockney’s idols, Claude Monet.

Hockney wasn’t too busy to spend time a decade ago sitting for a portrait by his friend Lucian Freud. The exhibition “Lucian Freud Portraits” (Feb. 9-May 27) at the National Portrait Gallery is the first major showing of the artist’s work since his death last July. The restriction of the title is in reality not much of a limitation since to Freud a picture of just about anything was a portrait, certainly a depiction of a person wearing no clothes (to him, “a naked portrait”).

Personal Portrait

Had Freud lived, this exhibition would have marked his 90th birthday year. As it is, it will be the first opportunity since 2002 to see a retrospective in London of work by a painter who increasingly looks not only like one of the great U.K. artists, but among the most important painters of the past 50 years anywhere. I must, however, declare an interest, since one of the portraits is of me. I’m looking forward to seeing myself for the first time in some years.

Third contestant in this artistic triathlon is Damien Hirst, the first big museum retrospective of whose art will be at Tate Modern (April 4-Sept. 9). Included will be many celebrated -- or notorious, depending on your point of view -- pieces, among them “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991) otherwise known as Hirst’s shark. In the Turbine Hall, meanwhile, will be the sinister yet sparkling “For the Love of God” (2007), the diamond-encrusted platinum skull which, even though there is controversy as to whether the original 50 million pound ($78.5 million) asking price was ever paid, must be the most costly memento mori in art history.

Published in News
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 03:58

Art Sale of Koons, Hirst and Others Falls Short

A contemporary art auction that included works by Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama fell short of some expectations Monday.

The sale, held by Seoul Auction in Hong Kong, tallied 67.3 million Hong Kong dollars (US$8.6 million), less than half the expected HK$195.3 million. Of the 49 works available, 20 remained unsold amid thin bidding and a subdued atmosphere.

“I saw a lot people with paddles, but they didn’t bid, they just watched,” said Soyoung Lee, Seoul Auction’s managing director. “We sold 60%, so it’s not the best, but we had a lot of expensive art. I guess people are not really in the mood to buy.”

“They selected some interesting paintings and sculptures, but I think they just didn’t time it well with the market,” said Roger McIlroy, an art adviser and former managing director of Christie’s Australia, as people trickled out of the room.

The star lot, Jeff Koons’s sculpture “Smooth Egg with Bow,” was met with anticlimactic silence as collectors passed on its estimate of HK$55 million to HK$75 million.

“We had a lot of overseas interest in Jeff Koons, but on the other hand, people also asked whether it was going to sell in this economic situation,” Ms. Lee said. Part of his “Celebration” series, this was the first time the steel sculpture appeared in the Asian market.

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