David Hockney: Current

Art, Galleries

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More than 1200 of the British artist's iPad paintings form the centrepiece of this blockbuster summer exhibition

He’s 79 years old, British, and a painter (mostly of landscapes, still lifes and portraits) – but David Hockney isn’t exactly old school, and the first thing you should know about the NGV’s summer exhibition is that the vast majority of works in it were made on an iPhone or iPad. 

The second thing you need to know is that despite Hockney’s age and prestige in the art world, this is not a retrospective of his 60-year career. David Hockney: Current covers the last 10 years of his practice, and includes several works from as recently as two months before the show opened.

Hockney is having a bit of a moment: the Royal Academy's hugely profitable 2012 survey of his landscapes was followed by a major show at San Francisco’s de Young fine arts museum, and a return to Academy this year with his series ‘82 portraits & 1 still life’ (which is one of the highlights of NGV’s exhibition, taking up a whole 35-metre gallery). A major retrospective will open at the Tate Britain in February 2017, and then travel to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

So why does this artist command such a massive audience? It has partly to do with talent (he was a prodigious draftsman as a teenager, and had his first major solo show at 26), and partly to do with his ability to shift mediums. As NGV curator Simon Maidment puts it, “If you can draw as well as Hockney could when he was 16, and you’re committed to drawing, then you better find some ways to challenge yourself otherwise you’re going to go batshit crazy.”

But there’s also a lot to be said for the joy in his work – not just the colour palette, but the ability to continually see things as if for the first time, with fresh eyes.

"He doesn't believe in 'rules' in art. His practice is about taking a traditional form – like portraiture or still life or landscape – and do something different with it, something joyful and fun," says Maidment. "He's encouraging people to look at the world in different ways."


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