Tacita Dean made this 16-minute film portrait of the artist David Hockney at his Los Angeles studio.

Over the course of the film Hockney is seen smoking five cigarettes and contemplating the paintings around him. We see him from several different angles, rolling his tongue and stooping to read. In the edit of the film portrait there is little speech. He is silent, apart from the moment where he erupts into laughter and reflects on smoking: ‘It’s very enjoyable; that’s why it won’t go away.’

Dean, who is based in Berlin, made her portrait of Hockney during her time as artist in residence at the Getty Research Institute in LA. After getting to know the artist, she asked if she could film him. She has commented on her representation of Hockney: ‘He’s thinking about his paintings… He paints, sits down, has a cigarette and figures out what to do next.’

The paintings seen around Hockney in the film are from the series of portraits that featured in his 2016 exhibition ‘82 Portraits and 1 Still-life’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. One of the paintings is of Dean’s son, Rufus.

Dean studied in Falmouth and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She is well known for her work in film and for her chalk drawings on blackboard. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1998. Her portrait of Hockney is the latest in a series of films she has made of mature artists, including Mario Merz (2002), Cy Twombly (2011), and Claes Oldenburg (2011).

David Hockney is represented in three self-portraits in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), as well as in a number of photographic portraits. However, this film – the first work by Dean to enter the NPG collection in a joint acquisition with the Royal Academy of Arts – has particular value for the insight it offers into Hockney’s artistic practice. It will also be a valuable addition to the collection of the Royal Academy, where both the sitter and the artist are Academicians.


From the artist’s Gallery; Frith Street Gallery, London. Exhibited: LA Exuberance, Frith Street Gallery, London 16 September – 4 November 2016; Tacita Dean...my English breath in foreign clouds, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York 2 March –

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