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David Hockney’s new exhibition is a celebration of art’s future

Beloved British artist David Hockney may be 85, but he is still pushing the boundaries of what art can do. 

Known for his bold use of colour, astute portraiture, and intrepid depictions of queerness, David Hockney is a national treasure.

His work has pushed boundaries in every way that art can; politically, socially, aesthetically. And, in recent years, his use of the iPad has raised new questions about the capabilities of technology in the art world.

At 85, Hockney is far from finished with experimental formats. iPad in hand, and yellow Crocs on feet, the artist has now unveiled an entirely immersive display of his art in Kings Cross.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA_I0qwnh_w&ab_channel=VanGoghMuseum

Hosted by Lightroom, the show will feature works from across Hockney’s oeuvre, including his famous swimming pools, life-size double portraits, and recent digital landscapes created on the iPad.

The show follows in the footsteps of others created for artists Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, whose works are also famous for their use of colour and texture.

Lightroom is a space designed with immersive experience in mind, featuring four-storeys with huge screens and all-encompassing sound systems.

‘There’s a lot of new technology that people really aren’t exploring just yet’ Hockney said when discussing his iPhone paintings in 2011.

By embracing, rather than resisting the digital world, Hockney has become a pioneer of modern art – despite his career starting in the 1960s when he left the RCA.

It’s nice to see the ostensible boundary between technology and painting dissolved in this way. Peppered with rigid systems of thought, stylistic genres, and lofty academic narratives, the artworld can often feel inaccessible.

 

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By pitting art against modern formats like the iPhone, or film and VR more generally, young people are even less likely to explore artworks and artists on their own terms.

It may feel like a fun new way of seeing Hockney’s famous paintings – even gimmicky to some – but this new show, titled ‘David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away), is half art exhibition, half theatrical performance.

It’s also a way for new people to experience art and galleries in a format that feels fun, laidback, and welcoming.

The ‘white cube’ structure of many art institutions is not only elitist, but has been shown to alienate neurodivergent people.

Working with existing artists to create new ways of seeing has opened up a range of possibilities in the world of gallery-going, meaning older works can be enjoyed by unexpected audiences, and the digital landscape isn’t reserved solely for new creatives.

 

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And, unlike the Van Gogh and Monet versions of these immersive exhibits, Hockney was heavily involved in the production of ‘Bigger and Closer’. The show even features a specially recorded voice-over from the artist.

This makes ‘Bigger and Smaller’ feel like an experimental new branch of Hockney’s work, rather than a flat money-making scheme. And if it opens art up to new audiences, what’s not to love?

‘David Hockney: ‘Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away)’ is on at Lightroom, 12 Lewis Cubitt Walk, N1C 4DY, from Jan 25-Apr 23 2023.

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