The anonymous seller of a painting from David Hockney’s iconic swimming pool series is the Hong Kong real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau, according to a report by Katya Kazakina from Bloomberg News. Hockney’s 1966 work A Splash is one of the most expensive offerings to appear in Sotheby’s contemporary art sale in London on February 11, where it is estimated to sell for £20 million–£30 million (around $26.1 million–$39.2 million). It last came to auction in 2006 at Sotheby’s, when it was acquired by whom the auction house identified as its current owner for £2.9 million.
Lau, the former chairman of Hong Kong property developer Chinese Estates Holdings, features in the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list, having first gained the art market’s notice in 2006 for buying an Andy Warhol “Mao” painting for $17.4 million. He also acquired Paul Gauguin’s 1892 painting Te Poipoi in 2007 for $39.2 million. The contents of his collection, which are kept largely under wraps, have been valued at $1 billion.
In March 2014 he was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of bribery and money laundering in Macau. He has escaped jail time by remaining outside mainland China, and last year he launched a legal campaign against Hong Kong’s controversial proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of fugitives in Hong Kong to Macau, Taiwan, and mainland China.
Hockney’s A Splash depicts the seconds after a diver has broken a backyard pool’s surface. It is the second work in a “splash” series, completed between the summers of 1966 and 1967, that includes A Bigger Splash (1967), which is held in Tate Modern’s permanent collection, and the privately owned A Little Splash (1966). Emma Baker, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale, said in a statement, “Not only is this a landmark work within David Hockney’s oeuvre, it’s an icon of Pop that defined an era and also gave a visual identity to L.A.”