It’s only fitting that the Getty Center should be the home of "Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney," a specially curated presentation of artist David Hockney’s self-portraits and photographs in celebration of his 80th year. After all, he spent most of the last 50 of those years in Los Angeles, his present home, and produced much of his colorful, distinctive art while living in Southern California.
This exhibition is a rare opportunity to see self-portraits from the artist’s private collection, covering seven decades of his life. From his time as a 17-year-old student at the Bradford School of Art in his birthplace of West Yorkshire, England, to his digital studies at age 75, the works demonstrate Hockney’s use of a variety of tools including pencil, charcoal, oil, watercolor, lithograph, color photocopies, photographs—and even iPads. His sense of humor, flamboyant fashion style, and intense self-examination are apparent in the works: one vacation photo shows his feet in scuffed white shoes with mismatched, brightly colored socks. Another taken in 1970 through a mirror could be one of the first selfies, as always ahead of his time.
A second room houses a display of photographic art, evidencing Hockney’s fascination with multiple perspectives. In several of the works, he combined dozens of Polaroid photos, their white borders creating a grid effect, breaking up the image into separate sections and altering the typical two-dimensional photograph. He challenged the notion of a single perspective in his Terrace Without Shadows by layering and overlapping pieces of many photos, the result reminiscent of Cubism.
The centerpiece of this room is the rarely exhibited Pearblossom Hwy., 11-18th April 1986, #2, acquired by the Getty in 1997 and last shown in 2008. Hockney’s interpretation of a deserted road in Southern California’s Antelope Valley, the immense artwork was created from more than 800 photos taken over eight days, rearranged and combined in a mosaic-like collage. The sky alone is composed of over 200 separate pieces in various shades of blue. He referred to his technique as “drawing with a camera.” Originally commissioned by Vanity Fair but ultimately not used, the image led Hockney to comment in an interview, “I got something quite terrific out of it, so I don’t mind.”
To commemorate Hockney’s 80th birthday, the museum is offering a limited-edition signed volume containing the artist’s work on high-quality paper in vivid color and large format. It's so large, in fact, that a specially designed stand is included in the price of $2,500. Jeff Wood, a staffer at the Getty Museum store and a Hockney admirer, paged through the entire book for a small group of enthralled onlookers, describing the pictures and encouraging discussion. “New generations are discovering Hockney,” Wood said, crediting the artist’s use of the latest digital and video technology.
A destination in itself, the Getty Center’s hilltop location offers views of Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and the San Gabriel Mountains. Visitors from around the world come for the art, but many locals make a day of strolling through the ever-changing Central Garden, admiring the panoramic views, and enjoying a picnic or casual lunch. The Restaurant, gourmet dining with views of the Santa Monica Mountains, is serving a special prix fixe menu during the exhibition with birthday cake and ice cream for dessert.
Hockney’s 80th birthday is being recognized around the world, with a retrospective of his work currently being shown at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until October 23. Earlier this year, the Hockney exhibit at the Tate Britain was seen by nearly half a million visitors, making it the gallery’s most popular ever.
If you can’t make it to Paris or Los Angeles to see the work of this celebrated artist, you’ll want to plan a trip to New York City. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will honor the artist by presenting his most iconic works in a major exhibition opening November 27, 2017 and continuing through February 25, 2018, ending the yearlong birthday celebration for one of the 20th century’s most prolific and unique artists.
If You Go
"Happy Birthday, Mr. Hockney" continues through November 26, 2017
1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles, C.A.
Parking: $15 (lot opens at 9:30 a.m.) A tram takes you from street level to the entrance at the top of the hill.
Daily hours: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Café: Self-service, casual menu
Garden Terrace Café: Lunch, coffee, and snacks in an outdoor setting overlooking the Central Garden
The Restaurant: An elegant dining room with gourmet cuisine and views of the Santa Monica Mountains (reservations recommended)
While you're there:
Visit the Central Garden, a work of art in itself with tree-lined walkways, a natural ravine, and over 500 plant varieties. The museum’s permanent collection includes pre-20th century European paintings, drawings, and sculpture; 19th and 20th century American, European, and Asian photographs; contemporary and modern sculpture.
Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel: About a half-mile from The Getty, this boutique resort is located at the intersection of Brentwood and Bel-Air; rooms start at $300
W Los Angeles: Enjoy a poolside cabana in this urban retreat about two miles from The Getty; rooms start at $350
Hotel Bel-Air: This romantic hotel is set among 12 acres of landscaped gardens, within two miles of The Getty; rooms start at $825