I wish I could remember who went with me to the David Hockney retrospective at the LACMA, (LA County Museum of Art). Most of you probably have no idea who he is. I didn’t, until I went to his show back in 1988. He’s Great Britain’s most celebrated artist of the 21st century, you may have seen him in the news recently. He broke the world record of the highest selling price for an art piece by a living artist. Over 90 million dollars!
When I saw his work at his retrospective, I knew instantly that I had to meet him. I loved his playfulness and confidence with paint drips inadvertently streaking down a more traditional painting. I loved how he used bright colors without a care in the world.
That night, after seeing his show, I pulled out my old Smith Corona word processor and started working on a letter to him to invite him to my upcoming, first-ever art show. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote for like two weeks to perfect it, and as I was writing, I saw on the news that a Prince and Princess of the royal family had just arrived to see his retrospective. I knew then that I really had to nail this letter because Hockey was hanging out with royalty! I found a friend of a friend who offered to hand deliver my letter and invitation personally to David Hockney.
My friend Monique and I decided to have my show at her apartment in Malibu, which was really a small crawlspace-like area converted to a studio apartment. She had access to a beautiful beachfront deck which was a nice normal size to show my art. We hung my work on the deck except for a few pieces my friends didn’t like, which they put at the bottom of the extremely narrow stairway entrance. My friends hated one particular piece so much, they didn’t even want me to include it in the show. I insisted, so they put it in that tight stairwell area where you could only lean back about a foot to view it. They also begged me to lower the price to a couple of hundred dollars instead of the few thousand I was asking for it, but I stuck to my pricing despite their loud disappointment.
The day of the show, we had a handful of people show up, some new faces. I was talking with a couple of gals who were asking questions about my work when I heard the low rumble of a crowd talking about someone nearby. I looked up and saw David Hockney walking down the beach, toward us, with a couple of his Dachshunds! WTF! My brain went into a tailspin. I tried to keep my cool and patiently answer all the questions the women had. Problem was, I was losing altitude fast, I couldn’t get a fix on the horizon and the dials were spinning. I couldn’t focus; I could hardly hear. I must have seemed like I was having a stroke to these poor women. I looked over my shoulder and David had gotten up onto the landing where Monique was offering him a glass of water. I thought, just let him be, he would probably want to check out the art unaccosted. He just stood there smiling. Why was he not checking out the work? Did it suck that badly? I turned to the women I had abandoned, asked if they would please excuse me, and promised I’d be back.
It occurred to me that Mr. Hockney had just had royalty visit his show and most likely they wouldn’t just walk around looking at his work without him accompanying them, that would be considered rude. Today Mr. Hockney was royalty and he wasn’t going to be rude by wandering through my work without me presenting the pieces to him. I had no idea if I was right about this but it was plain to see he wasn’t going to move. I walked across the deck over to him and introduced myself. I asked if he wanted any food or drink and he assured me he was fine. I then asked if he would like me to show him my work and he grew a huge smile and said very happily, “yes”.
I showed him my work piece by piece, he seemed into it and we had a few laughs. He spotted the piece my friends tried to hide in the stairwell and arched back as far as he could to get a better look. I told him a little about the piece, he lit up a cigarette like he was in a movie and took a long puff.
Here’s where David did something that really shocked me. After I told him what the painting meant to me he started grabbing it and squeezing it like you would a melon or to see how well something was made, like kicking the tires of a car. I think he grabbed it to see how it’s put together. Then he uttered the words I’ll never forget, “I’ll have this”!
I was overwhelmed and humbled and wanted to kick my friends’ asses for all the shit they gave me about this painting. I wanted to rub it in their faces so badly but I was too happy and excited that David fucking Hockney was collecting one of my works. How do you top that?
He asked me if I wouldn’t mind walking down the beach with him, to his house, so he could write me a check. You can imagine what I said, hell no you go get your check and bring it back here if you want this painting. OK, you’re right I didn’t say that, I was too busy trying not to jump up and down and scream from the top of my lungs, yes yes yes!
Congratulations David Hockney on your record breaking sale of the “Pool with Two Figures”!