In November 2016, Sotheby's broke David Hockney's auction record with Woldgate Woods, which sold in New York for $11.7 million. In less than two years, Hockney's record has officially doubled, thanks to the large-scale oil painting, Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica, which sold in Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction (16 May, New York) for an astonishing $28,453,000. The sale also marked a record for a work on paper by Hockney, with Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30) selling for $11,743,800. A highlight of Hockney’s recent critically-acclaimed retrospectives at the Tate Britain, London, the Centre Pompidou, Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica is a paragon of the artist’s storied career.
One of a limited group of monumental California landscape paintings, Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica is a defining moment within the British-born Hockney’s 60-year career and the pinnacle of his longstanding visual infatutation with the city of Los Angeles. The ambitious painting, dazzling with hues of chartreuse, tangerine, rose, lavender and cerulean across its 10-foot wide canvas, epitomizes the artist’s bold use of color. Comparable works are held in the collections of such renowned institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
This 1990 oil on canvas is also an acknowledgement of the importance and significance of traditional painting. At a time when artists across the board were turning away from painting and towards photography and conceptual art, Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica addresses the history and impact of artistic styles such as Post-Impressionism and Fauvism, all executed in Hockney’s signature vernacular.
Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica may also be interpreted as David Hockney’s heartfelt ode to Los Angeles. In his autobiography That’s The Way I See It, which features the present work on the back cover, he writes, “anyone who had been on my Wagner drive would immediately recognize Pacific Coast Highway [and Santa Monica] – a multiple view of Santa Monica Bay and the mountains.”
Wagner Road, the artist’s multifaceted and variegated daily route from his home in the Hollywood Hills to his studio on Santa Monica Boulevard, encapsulates Los Angeles’s bright sunlight and bold colors, the very characteristics that drew Hockney away from the grey skies of London. Remembered and recalled in his studio, the result is a masterpiece in which mountain peaks, rolling hills, serpentine roads, calm bays and orderly cityscapes harmoniously vie for attention, guiding the viewer from the top of the road to the horizon.
Discover more about David Hockney.