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David Hockney

Leading UK art institutions acquire David Hockney film portrait

David Hockney
Portraits, 2016 by Tacita Dean 16mm color film, optical sound, 16 minutes, continuous loop Location photograph by Matthew Hale Courtesy the artist; Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris

The National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts have jointly acquired Portraits, Tacita Dean’s 16mm film portrait of internationally renowned British artist David Hockney, it was announced today 16 January 2018. The joint acquisition has been made possible with support from Art Fund.

The joint acquisition comes ahead of the unprecedented collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, and National Gallery, which will see all three galleries open distinct exhibitions with the artist Tacita Dean in 2018. The three exhibitions, Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE, PORTRAIT, STILL LIFE, shaped by Dean’s response to the individual character of each institution, will explore genres traditionally associated with painting – landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts, portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and still life at the National Gallery – seen through the contemporary prism of Dean’s wide-ranging artistic practice.

Portraits (2016) provides an intimate portrayal of David Hockney and the everyday behaviors that drive his creative inspiration. The 16-minute color film observes Hockney smoking five cigarettes and thinking about painting in his Los Angeles studio, surrounded by a series of portrait paintings that featured in his 2016 exhibition at the Royal Academy; 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life. For Hockney, smoking is embedded in his artistic practice as he meditatively takes drag after drag before the camera. The work will be shown in Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT at the National Portrait Gallery (March 15 – May 28, 2018), alongside Dean’s other portrait films of influential figures such as Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenburg, Julie Mehretu, Mario Merz, Michael Hamburger and Cy Twombly. Following the exhibition it will be displayed in rotation with other collection works at the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy, and will be available for loan to exhibitions elsewhere, including the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Hockney’s hometown of Bradford, where it is hoped it will be shown later this year. When displayed at the Royal Academy, it will be on view as part of the new, free displays of art and architecture from the RA’s Collections.

Tacita Dean (b.1965-) is a British European artist based in Berlin and Los Angeles who works with many media, but primarily in film. Dean first came to prominence in the 1990s and is now considered to be one of the most influential artists working today. She was elected a Royal Academician in 2008. Dean’s films, drawings and other works are extremely original. Her films express something that neither painting nor photography can capture. They are purely film. And while Dean can appreciate the past, her art avoids any kind of academic approach. Her art is carried by a sense of history, time and place, light quality and the essence of film itself. The focus of her subtle but ambitious work is the truth of the moment, the film as a medium and the sensibilities of the individual.

David Hockney (b.1937-) is considered to be one of the most popular and influential British artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Born in Bradford, Hockney studied at Bradford School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, London, where he met artists including R.B. Kitaj, Allen Jones and Patrick Caulfield, and became an important contributor to the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and has remained active throughout his life working in a variety of media such as painting, drawing, print, photography, collage, video and most recently iPhones and iPads.

Portraits is the first film work by a Royal Academician to enter the Royal Academy Collection. It is also be the first portrait by Tacita Dean to be acquired by the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait was purchased for £57,440 with a contribution of £28,720 from Art Fund. It has also received support from The Deighton Family Foundation.


Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London says: “We are delighted to have jointly acquired Tacita Dean’s Portraits with the Royal Academy of Arts, and are extremely grateful to Art Fund for their generous support, together with the support from The Deighton Family Foundation. This new acquisition will enable us to represent David Hockney’s engagement with portraiture throughout his career in the Collection, and at the same time demonstrate Tacita Dean’s own longstanding interest in the genre.”

Tim Marlow, Artistic Director, Royal Academy of Arts, says: “The joint acquisition between the RA and the National Portrait Gallery underlines the truly collaborative nature of these three exhibitions. We are thrilled that Dean’s portrait of David Hockney will enter the RA Collection, joining a superb range of portraits of artists by fellow artists, and continuing the theme of one Academician depicting another. In addition, the portrait was made while Hockney was preparing for his 2016 exhibition at the RA.”

Dr Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund Director, says: “We’re really pleased to have helped make the acquisition of Portraits possible, alongside our wider programme of support for the 250th anniversary of the RA. It’s a mesmerising work of art.”

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David Hockney