“Paintings are there to be experienced … [they] are not to be reasoned with, they are not to be understood, they are to be recognised.”– John Hoyland, 1979
John Hoyland was an important abstract artist working in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century. Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1934, Hoyland studied painting at the Sheffield College Art, and later at the Royal Academy Schools in London. The 1960s, the formative years of Hoyland’s career, were also a decade that saw a veritable explosion in British painting, with artists like Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and David Hockney establishing themselves as forces in the field. Yet Hoyland developed a visual language wholly his own. His large-scale, roughly geometric canvases celebrate color and display an adept subversion of conventionHis work is held in the collection of the Tate, and Hoyland himself was elected to the Royal Academy in 1991. He taught painting at the school from 1999 to his death in 2011.
When Contemporary painter and fellow Brit Damien Hirst opened his Newport Street Gallery in the south London neighborhood of Vauxhall in 2015, he selected Hoyland as the inaugural exhibition. The old brick warehouse, once the home to a workshop for scenery-painting for London theaters, was completely renovated by famed architects Caruso St. John, and was outfitted with three sweeping stairwells and a zig-zagging saw-tooth roof. But it was the idea behind the gallery itself that struck most remarkably: Newport Street is primarily meant to be a display space for Hirst’s personal collection of art. Far from being an self-congratulatory altar at which to worship the artist’s previous accomplishments, Hirst has instead held exhibitions for the work of Jeff Koons, Ashley Bickerton, and British sculptor Gavin Turk. The gallery is entirely free to the public.
The Hoyland exhibition, “Power Stations,” opened in October of 2015, and featured paintings by the artist from 1964 (the year of his first trip to New York) through 1982, filling all six spaces in the gallery. The exhibition spanned a transformative period of the artist’s career: Hoyland’s first solo museum show was held at the Whitchapel Gallery in 1967, and the Serpentine Gallery held a retrospective in 1979.
“Simultaneously monumental and poetic, the works presented in ‘Power Stations’ were, above all, sensory experiences. Serving as an overdue affirmation of Hoyland’s significance within the field of abstraction, they provide fascinating new insights into the artist’s practice, and through it, the object of painting itself.”
Just a few weeks after the Newport Street Gallery opening, Freeman’s held its fall Modern & Contemporary Art auction. Lot 84 of the November 1 sale was an impressively sized and confidently colored acrylic on canvas, titled “9.1.75,” executed by John Hoyland. The painting had been exhibited at Galerie André Emmerich in Zurich, as well as the Waddington Gallery in London. Bolstered, no doubt, by the buzz surrounding his solo exhibition at Newport Street Gallery, the painting sold for $131,000 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000.
The success of “9.1.75” offers proof that coordinating sales with larger market forces and events can help lift prices at auction. A Specialist in the field uniquely understands these trends, and can help navigate the art market, whether you’re looking to consign or buy at auction.