Christie’s has confirmed that David Hockney’s 1972 Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), set to go on sale at the house’s November 15 postwar and contemporary art evening sale in New York, will be sold without a reserve. Josh Baer broke the news this morning in his widely read e-newsletter, the Baer Faxt, having received confirmation from Christie’s specialist Loic Gouzer.
The painting is estimated to sell for around $80 million next week and is likely to set a record for the artist at auction, as well as the highest paid for a living artist at auction. Hockney’s current record is $28.5 million set earlier this year at Sotheby’s. The current record of a living artist was set when Jeff Koons’s orange “Balloon Dog” sculpture was sold in 2013 for $58.4 million, also at Christie’s.
A reserve is a confidential value established between the auction house and the seller and below which the artwork may not be sold. It is generally set at a percentage of the artwork’s low estimate and doesn’t exceed the low pre-sale estimate.
In an email sent to ARTnews today, a Christie’s spokesperson said, “By removing the reserve we have also removed any perceived barrier to entry and opened up bidding to broader participation including institutions and major donors as well as private collectors.”
The painting is being sold by billionaire Joe Lewis, whose collection includes work by Picasso and Matisse as well as Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud. The work, a notable entry into the artist’s body of work around swimming pools, shows two figures. The first, in a pair of white briefs, swims toward the second who is standing at the edge of the pool in a pink blazer and white trousers.
In September, Christie’s Alex Rotter told ARTnews, “The consignment of this work was very competitive, and in the end, the consignor was most confident in Christie’s ability to present a masterpiece of this scale.” It was included in Hockney’s recent traveling career retrospective that made a stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2017, and was also shown at the Tate Britain in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
“This is the first time in recent memory that a no-reserve approach has been chosen for a painting at this price level and essentially means that any registered bidder can participate in the competition for one of Hockney’s most iconic works of art,” the spokesperson added in the email.