For six decades now David Hockney has been an innovator of British and Post-Modern art. He is the only artist other than Francis Bacon to have two major retrospectives at Tate Britain in his lifetime. This exhibition has come at a time of a near slump in Tate attendance and has crowds thronging for attendance. The evening of the preview saw over 100 VIP guests left queuing outside the show due to an overwhelming number of attendees. Spanning 60 years of Hockney’s prolific career from his early oil on canvas self-portraits as a teenager, to his politically and erotically charged work of a naked man lying on his stomach (made the year homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK), to his multi-screen video pieces from the last few years, his works evoke a strong idea of searching for a new way of seeing, a new way of communicating.
As put by Times journalist Rachel Campbell-Johnston: “what this retrospective helps to explain is how, through all its twists and turns of style and subject matter, the work is underpinned by a determination to uncover a truth. If you define an important artwork as something that shows you a new way of looking, Hockney earns the accolade, not only of Britain’s most famous living artists but probably its greatest artist too”.
However, a shrewder critic took note that though the first five rooms are overwhelming in their brilliance, showcasing some of Hockney’s greatest works from his early to mature periods, the final rooms are lacklustre and illustrate the discrepancy between his earlier and later era.