David Hockney's 'The Splash' sells for over $40 million in London

Hockney painted "The Splash" (above) when he lived in Los Angeles, where his long-running interest in swimming pool subjects began.
Hockney painted "The Splash" (above) when he lived in Los Angeles, where his long-running interest in swimming pool subjects began.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - David Hockney's Los Angeles pool painting "The Splash" fetched £23.1 million (S$41 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.

"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 US$90.3 million (S$125 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.