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The David Hockney Takeover! A Major Retrospective & New Books Put the Brit on Top of the World

Artwork: David Hockney, 2016. Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images.

Has there ever been a painter of modern life as celebrated as David Hockney? The British artist, who celebrates his 80th birthday this July, is being fêted with the largest retrospective of his career at the Tate Britain and a flurry of fabulous new art books celebrating his incredible body of work.

Also: He Came. He Drew. He Conquered. David Hockney in His 80th Year

While a student at the Royal College of Art in London, Hockney was included in the 1963 exhibition Young Contemporaries, which signaled the arrival of British Pop art. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he lived for four years, creating his seminal painting, A Bigger Splash (1967), which has been knocked off with reckless abandon.

David Hockney, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) 1971 Private Collection© David Hockney. Courtesy of Tate Britain.

Over a period of six decades, Hockney has transformed the nature of picture making through his relentless questioning of conventions, always seeking to go deeper to connect with art’s very essence. The exhibition at the Tate, simply titled David Hockney, starts with the Love paintings, early work made in 1960 and ’61, in which he subverted the macho language of abstract expressionism and subverted it into a vehicle to express homoerotic ideas and experiences.

From there, the exhibition takes off, giving us a guided tour through Hockney’s singular world. He easily embraces new styles, new techniques, and new technologies in order to explore and expand his artistic vocabulary. The exhibition features his radical “joiner” assemblages of photographs, including the famed Pearlblossom Highway (1986) that created a fresh view of the California landscape. Organized by the Centre Pompidou and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition will tour internationally to Paris and New York after it closes in London on May 29, 2017.

David Hockney. English 1937–. Yosemite I, October 16th 2011 (1059). iPad drawing. Collection of the artist © David Hockney. rom David Hockney: Current (Thames & Hudson, May 2017).

In conjunction with the exhibition, a fresh crop of monographs are on the market, including Taschen’s SUMO-sized David Hockney. Produced in a limited edition of 9,000 signed copies, the book features more than 450 works made over the curse of 60 years spread across over 600 pages, the book is a spectacular masterwork for the diehard collector.

Thames & Hudson has just released three new titles, most recently a paperback edition of Hockney’s Pictures, which shows the diversity of the artist’s prolific body of work, featuring paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, and photographs personally selected and organized by Hockney himself that track his lifelong experiments with ways of looking and depicting life.

David Hockney. English 1937–. The group XI, 7-11 July 2014. acrylic on canvas. 122.0 x 183.0 cm. Collection of the artist. © David Hockney. Photo Credit: Richard Schmidt. rom David Hockney: Current (Thames & Hudson, May 2017).

For those who want to focus exclusively on the human element, consider picking up a copy of Hockney’s Portraits and People by Marco Livingstone and Kay Hemer, which includes paintings of Andy Warhol, Christopher Isherwood, Billy Wilder, and Armistead Laupin, as well as family, friends, and lovers. “Faces are the most interesting things we see,” Hockney is quoted as saying. “Other people fascinate me, and the most interesting aspect of other people—the point where we go inside them—is the face. It tells all.”

Indeed, we learn a great deal by looking—as well as listening. For those who want to know the mind of the artist, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney by Martin Gayford is not to be missed. The book presents a decade and a half of conversations between artist and author, providing a wealth of reflections, anecdotes, observations, and meditations about a life in art. The conversations are shrewd, witty, and insightful, providing a keen understanding of the complex ways in which Hockney works and thinks.

David Hockney. English 1937–. Untitled, 655 2011. iPad drawing. Collection of the artist © David Hockney. rom David Hockney: Current (Thames & Hudson, May 2017).

Finally, we get a glimpse into the now with the forthcoming volume David Hockney: Current (May 2017). The book is a major survey of works created over the past ten years, showing that a true contemporary never misses an opportunity to expand his practice. Hockney has dedicated his life to drawing, oil painting, printmaking, set design, and photocollage, and more recently has extended his practice into watercolor, charcoal, multi-camera video installation, and digital drawing. An exhibition of the same name featuring works from the book is currently on view at the National Gallery of Victoria, Mebourne, Australia.

Truly, how many septugenarians do you know that keep to the cutting edge with so comfortably? David Hockney’s way of seeing continue to provoke, inspire, and compel an investigation into the nature of art and the ways in which it can serve our work. For this reason we raise a glass in toast to David Hockney. Salut!

David Hockney. English 1937–. Self-portrait, 25 March 2012, No. 2 (1233). iPad drawing. From David Hockney: Current (Thames & Hudson, May 2017).


Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.