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David Hockney's The Splash sells for £23m

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The Splash, a 1966 work, is a square acrylic painting showing the moment water splashes up in a swimming pool just after a diver enters. It is the second in a series of three splash paintings. A Little Splash is in a private collection and A Bigger Splash is in London's Tate Britain gallery.

London

DAVID Hockney's Los Angeles pool painting, The Splash, fetched £23.1 million (S$41.6 million) at a sale in London on Tuesday, auctioneers Sotheby's said, compared with a pre-sale estimate of £20 million to £30 million.

The 1966 work is a square acrylic painting showing the moment water splashes up in a swimming pool just after a diver enters.

The 82-year-old British artist painted it when he lived in Los Angeles where his long-running interest in swimming pool subjects began.

The composition of The Splash, including the angled diving board, was inspired by a photograph Hockney saw in a Hollywood magazine on how to build swimming pools.

"I loved the idea of painting this thing that lasts for two seconds; it takes me two weeks to paint this event that lasts for two seconds", he said of the painting in a 1976 book, Hockney by Hockney.

It is the second in a series of three splash paintings. A Little Splash is in a private collection and A Bigger Splash is in London's Tate Britain gallery.

The last time this picture was sold at auction, in 2006, it went for £2.9 million.

"It's an icon of Pop that defined an era and also gave a visual identity to LA," said Emma Baker, head of Sotheby's contemporary art evening sale.

In 2018, Hockney's Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 sold for US$90.3 million at Christie's in New York, smashing the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living artist. REUTERS