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David Hockney's The Splash sells for £23.1m at auction

Credit: PA Images

David Hockney's The Splash has sold for more than £23 million at auction.

The 1966 piece by the Bradford-born artist, who is now 82, depicts the spray from a dive into a pool on a sunny day in California.

It last sold at Sotheby's in 2006 for £2.9 million and returned on Tuesday night, making more than eight times the 2006 figure. The sale is the third highest price ever achieved for a Hockney at auction.

The piece is the second of Hockney's three "splash" paintings, in which he explores the appearance of water.

I love the idea, first of all, of painting like Leonardo, all his studies of water, swirling things. And 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. Everyone knows a splash can't be frozen in time, so when you see it like that in a painting it's even more striking than in a photograph.

– David Hockney, speaking in 1976

Those in charge of the auction spoke of the importance of the piece.

Not only is this a landmark work within David Hockney's oeuvre, it's an icon of Pop that defined an era and also gave a visual identity to LA.

Even looking beyond the twentieth century, few artworks have attained as mythic a status as this painting.

Equally as recognisable as Munch's series of screams, Monet's water lilies or Van Gogh's flowers, Hockney's splash is ingrained within our cultural imagination.

– Emma Baker, head of Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale