Lucian Freud’s portrait of David Hockney sold for $20.7 million at Sotheby’s in London this past week. The sale marks Freud’s sixth most expensive work to ever sell at auction, although much lower than his priciest work. In 2008, his Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (2005) set the world record for highest auction price for a living artist. The painting was sold again in 2015 at Christie’s for $56 million.
Lucian Freud is one of Britain’s most acclaimed artists and one of the 21st century’s most foremost portraitists. Painted at the height of his career in 2002, his portrait of Hockney provides an incredible window into the friendship of the two of the most eminent artists of our time. They had met in 1962 through the Guinness family. By the time Freud sat down to paint Hockney in 2002, he was almost 80 years old and Hockney was 65. The painting took four months to complete with Hockney sitting for over one hundred hours.
Every morning Hockney would arrive at Freud’s at 8:30am and began with a cup of tea. “I liked the old-fashioned bohemia of it all,” Hockney later recalled of the sittings. “The plates with old beans on them from the last night, or even last week. It was like student days, very appealing, very appealing after all those very clean New York lofts. I told him you can’t have a smoke-free bohemia by definition. He let me smoke. ‘Don’t tell Kate Moss,’ was his request.”
The latest auction went to a collector based in London. It was previously purchased by an American collector who bought the work in 2003 from Freud’s dealer, Acquavella Galleries, for a reported $4.8 million.