David Hockney, one of Britain’s foremost contemporary artists, has collaborated with a major publisher to create the largest book ever devoted to his art. The volume is so vast that it comes with its own adjustable bookstand and is as heavy as an armchair.
Such is Hockney’s excitement over the project that he has been involved with every stage of its production, from selecting more than 450 works for inclusion to overseeing layouts and colour proofing. “It is an autobiography in pictures, made by a person who loves pictures and makes them,” he said.
What particularly interested him is that there is virtually no text, no expansive essays by art historians or pretentious interpretations.
This is a visual survey apart from a single page of 15 sentences handwritten by Hockney. It begins: “A book like this shouldn’t have much text …”
The absence of text encourages people to rely on their own eyes, he believes. “I do think pictures should speak for themselves.”
He sees David Hockney: A Bigger Book as an “exhibition” that can be viewed at any time. “You look at it in a different way simply because the reproductions are so much bigger,” he said.
The book is a collaboration with publisher Benedikt Taschen, founder of Taschen Books. Hockney will travel to Germany to attend the official launch and unveiling at the Frankfurt book fair on 18 October.
At a cost of £1,750, it is not cheap, but then this is not your average art book. It is a limited edition of 10,000, each numbered and signed by the artist, and with its own stand. When the volume is open and its spreads are folded out, it spans 200cm x 70cm. It weighs 35kg, plus 15 more for the bookstand, designed by Marc Newson, with brushed aluminium legs coated in anodised red, yellow and blue – favourite Hockney colours – and an acrylic platform for holding the book. It also comes with a companion volume of some 1,000 images, including many unseen drawings and photographs of the artist.
Hockney said: “I think both books sum up 62 years of work very well. I am very pleased.” When everything is all packed up in its box, it needs two to three people to carry it .
The book begins in 1953, when Hockney, then 16, was studying at Bradford School of Art. It includes his breakthrough in 1960s swinging London, his life by Los Angeles pools in the 1970s, his recent series of portraits, iPad drawings and Yorkshire landscapes. There are also drawings, photocomposites, multiperspective collages, stage designs and multi-camera video works, reflecting his endless passion for experimentation.
The selection includes some of his most-renowned paintings – notably A Bigger Grand Canyon, a vast, sprawling landscape, and A Bigger Splash, in which he captured the exquisite sparkle of a turquoise pool under the intense light of the California sky.
It also features works that have not been published before, such as his most recent painting – a vibrant view of his Los Angeles balcony, titled Garden with Blue Terrace.
The book’s editor, Hans Werner Holzwarth, said that the composition – one of two new paintings of the same subject – is flooded with Hockney’s trademark palette of bright colours, particularly a brilliant blue. “It’s the view you get when you go on the balcony and look out,” Holzwarth said. He recalled the artist’s excitement at seeing the first dummy edition in January:
“We did 19 dummies until the big one,” he said. “When he started this process, it was relatively clear to him that this would be an … exhibition which will be seen all the time. That’s the major thing. It’s the first time having a book in a size which is more like a painting, instead of a small reproduction.”
Interest in Hockney is as strong as ever. The book’s publication comes ahead of his major retrospective at Tate Britain next February, in advance of his 80th birthday. It is organised with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
On 17 November, Sotheby’s New York will auction one of his enormous paintings – titled Woldgate Woods, 24, 25 and 26 October, 2006. The picture was included in the Royal Academy’s 2012 blockbuster exhibition of landscapes inspired by the artist’s native Yorkshire, which drew more than 600,000 visitors. Such is his reputation among collectors that it is expected to fetch between $9m and $12m (£7.2m-£9.7m), which would break his auction record.
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