As both head designer of his eponymous fashion label and formerly as creative director of Louis Vuitton between 1997 and 2013. It is of little surprise therefore, that Jacobs’s discerning eye and fastidious taste for exceptional quality is reflected in his esteemed collection of contemporary art.
In an impeccable array of masterworks by period-defining artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucio Fontana, David Hockney and Gerhard Richter, the Collection of Marc Jacobs brings together an iconoclastic and eclectic host of works that testifies to the extraordinary character of its ensemblier.
Demonstrating the designer’s undeniable passion for contemporary artworks of the highest order, Marc Jacobs’s collection is typified by examples as diverse as Richter’s Säbelantilope (1966), Jeff Koons’s Yorkshire Terriers (1991) and Takashi Murakami’s The Double Helix (2002), and brings together a plethora of seminal works by adventurous, global art stars. As well as displaying an exuberant variety, each work attests to an individual depth and respective importance that defines Jacobs’s exceptionally curated collection. From Koons’s Yorkshire Terriers – central to his significant Made in Heaven series – to Hockney’s The Salesman (1963) – a sublime example of the artist’s early paintings – these works exhibit an expert appreciation of the vanguard art movements of the last half-century. Assembled with the creativity and connoisseurship of one of the most celebrated arbiters of contemporary taste, this selection of works charts a panorama of hugely influential artists, curated by one of the most pioneering aesthetes of recent times.
David Hockney’s The Salesman from 1963 is a superlative example of the artist’s renowned early paintings. Executed one year after his graduation from the Royal College of Art, the present work characterises the artistic milieu of London in the early 1960s, of which Hockney was a key protagonist. Conversant with the significant work of R. B. Kitaj, Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, and Art Informel, The Salesman identifies Hockney’s principle motifs and compositional cues – citing his formative touchstones, and anticipating the theatrical dynamism that would come to define his output for decades to come.
“England in the mid-1960s was experiencing unprecedented euphoria as British reserve gave way to Dionysian revel” writes Martin Friedman, and “London was the scene of a high-voltage, gleefully anti-establishment revolution in the visual arts” (Martin Friedman, ‘Painting into Theatre’, in: John Cox, John Dexter, Martin Friedman and Stephen Spender, Eds., Hockney Paints the Stage, London 1983, p. 7). Synthesising new-wave formal interests – combining an idiosyncratic draughtsmanship with an austere command of paint synonymous with Art Brut and Picasso, here Hockney assembles a dramatic vignette of timely consequence. The present work describes the “curtain call” of the trilby-wearing salesman, casting a long shadow in the age of the Beatles and Carnaby Street fashion. Hockney’s period of painting in the renascent London of the 1960s was, however, short-lived. The artist travelled for the first time to Los Angeles in 1964, a journey that would dramatically shift his painterly style away from the collaged dramas of his earlier works, towards a naturalist cinematography that is epitomised by his double portraits of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
A foundational work from a key period in Hockney’s oeuvre, The Salesman evinces a palpable interest in the theatrical potentialities of painting. In such works as George Lawson and Wayne Sleep, 1972-75 – now in the Tate Collection – what emerges in a distilled form is Hockney’s sterling ability to construct scenic space and produce narrative passages of dialogue through composition. The artist’s close connection with the theatre began in his childhood – taking in variety shows at the Bradford Alhambra with his father – but it wouldn’t be until 1966 that Hockney would first foray into production, after being invited by Ian Cuthbertson of London’s Royal Court Theatre to design the sets and costumes for Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. To Hockney, this was a natural development of his interests: “I had played with those ideas before and thought of all my pictures as drama. Even the way I was painting at that time was a kind of theatrical exaggeration” (Ibid., p. 11).
The Salesman prefigures the Hollywood polish of the artist’s later portraits, describing, in earnest, Hockney’s nuanced orchestration of dramatic staging in an illustrative verve. The present work demonstrates not only the artist’s kinship to mid-century British and European painting, but also the elemental compositional devices that Hockney would formalise and build-on over his hugely illustrious and massively acclaimed career.
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