Royal Opera House Sells David Hockney’s Painting for £12.86m to Cover COVID Debts | Auctions News | THE VALUE
The Royal Opera House (ROH) sold a David Hockney painting for £ 12.86 million at Christie’s London amid disappointing debate. The decision to sell the painting did not please the artist. In the meantime, the union that represents ROH employees said the funding from the sale is nowhere near enough to offset months of lost income.
A portrait of Sir David Webster was offered at Christie’s Evening sales for post-war and contemporary art on October 22, 2020 in London. The sale comprised 29 lots, two lots, including Francis Bacon’s Head of Men, were withdrawn before the sale. The pre-sale estimate has been reduced from £ 47.4m to £ 40.9m. Of all 27 lots on offer, two were purchased while the remaining lots generated total sales of £ 49.2 million. At GBP 41.3 million, the total of the hammer prices was above the pre-sales estimate.
Christie’s promotional material for 20th century: London to Paris Sales series
Christie’s auctioneers Jussi Pylkkänen and Cécile Verdier
The sale was part of Christie’s 20th century: London to Paris, four live hybrid-style auctions on two continents. It was moderated jointly by two auctioneers, Jussi Pylkkänen in London and Cécile Verdier in Paris, who accepted offers from customers in the sales room, via telephone banks and via Christie’s LIVE online bidding channel.
Lot 108 ｜ David Hockney (born 1937). A portrait of Sir David Webster ｜ Second top lot of sales
Created in: 1971
Size: 152.8 x 184.5 cm
Provenance: Acquired directly from David Hockney at the Royal Opera House in 1971.
Estimate: £ 11,000,000 – 18,000,000
Hammer price: £ 11,000,000
Realized price: £ 12,865,000
The main focus of the sale was definitely on a portrait of Sir David Webster by David Hockney that was expected to fetch between £ 11 million and £ 18 million. The lot was backed by a third party guarantee to ensure that the painting would sell for an undisclosed price. After the bid started at £ 8.5m, auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen received just four bids and lowered the gavel to £ 11m, the painting’s low estimate. The painting was sold for £ 12.9m on premium to the buyer who is likely the third party guarantor.
Katharine Arnold, Christie’s co-director of post-war and contemporary art in Europe, bought the painting on behalf of her telephone company. She says ROH’s decision to sell “was not an easy one” and that sensitive discussions started back in the summer. She says “the main role of the Royal Opera House is to support the performing arts” rather than being a museum of fine arts. ROH was convinced of the sale as the work was guaranteed by a third party from the start.
The painting was sold to Katharine Arnold’s telephone bidder with paddle number 842
Sir David Webster was the manager of the Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House sold the painting to raise funds during the pandemic
A portrait of Sir David Webster was created in 1971 to mark Sir David Webster’s resignation as Administrator General of the Royal Opera House after 25 years of service. From 1945 to 1970 Sir David Webster was instrumental in founding the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera companies. He transformed the Royal Opera House from its early impoverished and provincial image into international importance as one of the best opera houses in the world.
Webster was invited to a memorial portrait and had only one artist in mind: David Hockney. Hockney initially rejected the commission. He didn’t know Webster and, for his portraits, had always preferred to paint family and friends like Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark – who can be seen with their cat in the famous double portrait of Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, now in Tate’s collection.
Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy from David Hockney – Tate’s collection
As an avid opera lover, however, Hockney soon changed his mind. In early 1971 he painted the portrait of Sir David Webster. In order to gain control of the procedure, Hockney insisted that he paint Webster in his own studio rather than in Covent Garden or the actor’s Marylebone home.
The portrait of Sir David Webster also shows Hockney’s Matic flair for color: from the rich green tones in the suit of the sitter to the bright pink of the tulips. Then the light blue pocket square protrudes from Sir David’s jacket, matching the color of his left eye.
Hockney had lived in California in the mid-1960s and enjoyed the brilliant sunshine and glorious light. He was back in the UK in 1971, but the West Coast influence on his art was strong. The shimmering effect of light on water, a characteristic feature of his Californian swimming pool pictures, is comparable to the way in which light hits the translucent glass table in front of Webster – and through it reaches the floor below.
David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) sold for a record $ 90.3 million in 2018
Hockney insisted that he paint Webster in his own studio
Webster is said to have loved Hockney’s portrait. Unfortunately, he couldn’t enjoy it for long. He died in May 1971 at the age of 67.
The auction record for David Hockney was set in 2018 by Portrait of a Artist (pool with two figures), which sold for $ 90.3 million, also a world record for a work by a living artist. Jeff Koons later won the title back when Rabbit sold for $ 91.07 million.
Lot 110 – Peter Doig (born 1959). Boiler house ｜ Top lot of the sale
Created in: 1993
Size: 200 x 275 cm
- Victoria Miro, London.
- Fruchter Collection, Antwerp.
- Private collection, San Francisco.
- Acquired from above by the current owner.
Estimate on request (reportedly between £ 12m and £ 18m)
Hammer price: £ 11,900,000
Realized price: £ 13,895,500
The top lot of the sale is Peter Doig’s 200 x 275 cm boiler house. The auction house did not disclose the estimate, but it was reported to be between £ 12 million and £ 18 million. The painting was hammered for £ 11.9 million after six bids and sold to the telephone bidder represented by Katharine Arnold. It was sold for £ 13.9 million after premium.
Peter Doig is a Scottish painter, one of the most famous living figurative painters. In 1991 he visited Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in northeast France. It was a utopian housing project that had opened in Briey-en-Fôret in 1961 and then abandoned. The project inspired Doig’s groundbreaking Concrete Cabins series, the largest and most distinctive cycle in Doig’s oeuvre.
The painting was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation
Boiler House was first exhibited in Salzburg after Doig won the Eliette von Karajan Prize in 1994 and was included in Doig’s 2008 retrospective at Tate Britain. It shows an isolated building in a forest. Represented in flowing traces of impasto material with a strong anthropomorphic charge, Boiler House serves as a poignant meditation on memory, decay and displacement.
Lot 121 – Francis Bacon (1909-1992). Study from the human body ｜ Third top lot of sales
Created in: 1991
Size: 198 x 147.8 cm
- Collection of the artist.
- The artist’s estate.
- Acquired from above by the current owner.
Estimate: £ 4,500,000-6,500,000
Hammer price: £ 4,600,000
Realized price: £ 5,537,000
Auction house: Christie’s London
Sales: Post-war and evening sales of contemporary art
Sale Date: October 22, 2020
Many offered: 27
Not sold: 2
Lot sold: 93%
Sales total: £ 49,220,500