Testament to the exceptional eye of British painter Howard Hodgkin, the kaleidoscope of exquisite objects that the artist so carefully drew together in his home exceeded pre-sale expectations and sold for a combined total of £5,184,887. The contents of the auction cast a new light on the aesthetic innovations of one of the greatest artists of our time, revealing what inspired him and what he held close.
For the first time the public had the opportunity to see his work alongside objects from Italy to India that had inspired him. Following international exhibitions of sale highlights in Mumbai, Dubai and a full exhibition in Sotheby’s London galleries that attracted visitors in the thousands, bidders responded with enthusiasm, with many lots selling for multiples of their pre-sale estimate and 75% lots sold fetching prices above their pre-sale high estimate.
The discreet exterior of Howard Hodgkin’s London home gave you no indication of the richness within; opening the door was like stepping into one of his most vibrant paintings. Objects from India to Italy, which suggest a modern day grand tour, were displayed side by side, heightened by the sensational jewel-like tones of the walls. The juxtaposition of objects was distinctive, unique and reflected the passions, friendships and inspirations that ran throughout Hodgkin’s life and work.
Hodgkin began collecting as a 14 year old boy, and his first love was Indian paintings, encompassing those from the 17th to 20th centuries. His passion for Islamic art is less widely known – single tiles from the 16th and 17th centuries were hung in arresting wall displays with their own floral patterns rendered abstract in their solitude or grouped together as a more expansive decorative scheme. Sculpture, tapestries, carpets, furniture and objects –‘costume jewellery for the home’– abounded. Recurring themes permeate the works of art Hodgkin chose to surround himself with, and provide fascinating connections to his work.
Friendship is also a recurring theme. Hodgkin was friends with artists such as Robyn Denny, Peter Blake, Stephen Buckley, Peter Kinley and Patrick Caulfield – whose works all feature in the sale. The presence of two works by Bhupen Khakhar in the collection is the result of another long friendship. The De-Luxe Tailors was acquired in 1972 and epitomises Khakhar’s early style and is a signature work from this period. Alongside these works are two paintings by Hodgkin painted in the early 1960s.
The dialogue between colour and form is clear in Hodgkin’s own work and can be found in all of the paintings and objects that he chose to live with; his personal collection brings together a myriad of different disciplines including Modern & Post-War British Art, Contemporary Indian Art, Islamic Art, Tapestries, Carpets and Textiles, European Sculpture, Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints as well as Furniture and Decorative Art.