Not seen for decades, this early David Hockney painting is expected to fetch $20 million

David Hockney's 1965 "California" painting, which is being offered for sale at auction house Christie's "20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale" on March 7, 2024 in London, Britain, is displayed in this undated handout photo obtained on January 25, 2024.

David Hockney’s 1965 painting “California” is being offered for sale at Christie’s auction house in London in March.

An early work by British artist David Hockney, a painting depicting his well-known pool motif and not seen in public for more than 40 years, is headed for auction with an estimate of around $20 million.

Hockney, 86, painted “California,” showing two naked figures in an outdoor swimming pool, in 1965 after his first trip to Los Angeles and it has been held in a private collection since 1968.

The painting, last seen in public in 1979, is a highlight of auction house Christie’s “20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale” on March 7. It is listed with “a price on request,” with an estimate in the region of £16 million ($20.37 million).

“This is one of the earliest examples (of Hockney’s pool paintings),” Tessa Lord, a senior specialist and director of the post-war contemporary department at Christie’s London, told Reuters at a press preview on Thursday.

English artist David Hockney printmaking at the Edition Alecto Press studios, London, circa 1965.

English artist David Hockney printmaking at the Edition Alecto Press studios, London, circa 1965.

In 2018, Hockney’s 1972 piece “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” sold for $90.3 million, setting a then record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist.

“There is a lot of crossover between the two works but also we’ve seen since that world record price in 2018 a real broadening of the market for David Hockney,” Lord said.

“We have sold works from the Paul Allen estate over the past few years, which in particular shone a light on his later practice, his landscapes and what we’re coming to feel is a real international recognition amongst collectors of Hockney’s contribution to 20th and 21st century art, and a real drive to seek out the best examples of his practice.”

“California” will go on a touring exhibition to Paris and New York next month before returning to London to go on public view before the sale.

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