LONDON – 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.