DAVID HOCKNEY, Mark, Strand Hotel, Rangoon, 1971
This beautifully drawn work by David Hockney was of his friend, artist and occasional travelling companion, Mark Lancaster. Hockney was born in 1937 in Bradford, England, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Although considered a Pop artist, Hockney’s multi-disciplinary practice is markedly different from many of his close peers in engaging directly with art history as well as popular contemporary culture. His painting, Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures), became the most expensive art work sold by a living artist when it was auctioned for $90.3 million in November 2018. To celebrate the artist’s 80th birthday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Tate Gallery in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris held retrospectives in 2017 and 2018.
Mark Lancaster was an English artist who went to New York in the early 60s and was assistant to Andy Warhol. He then had a number of gallery exhibitions in London, including a prominent solo show at The Rowan Gallery in 1965. He moved to the United States permanently in 1973 and became Assistant and Private Secretary to Jasper Johns from 1974-1985. In an interview, Lancaster recalls how he met David Hockney for the first time in September 1964 in New York. Back in England they became friends, and Mark suggested he and David should make a trip around the world, which he thought might cheer Hockney up after a recent breakup with Peter Schlesinger in 1971. The two met in San Francisco and went to Hawaii, Japan, Hong Kong, Bali, Bangkok and Rangoon, Burma, staying when they could in old-fashioned grand hotels.
Lancaster recalls in an interview: “The Strand Hotel in Rangoon was a classic British Empire Hotel, with an elderly trio playing in the dining room, formal service and mostly canned food. One of the many drawings he made of me on the trip shows me in a white suit I'd had made in Hong Kong with this quaint trio in the background. By the Reception desk was a "Lost and Found" display case containing various bits and pieces that had been waiting to be retrieved for up to 50 years”.
Christopher Simon Sykes describes the circumstances around creation of this portrait in his biography of David Hockney: “The last port of call in the Far East was Burma, where they stayed in the Strand Hotel in Rangoon, a city that appealed to him because ... unlike most cities of Southeast Asia it’s completely untouched by America, therefore full of crumbling colonial British buildings, most of them with the signs still on—Barclays Bank etc. Like most Communist countries all there was for sale in the shops was toilet rolls and crude soap. Nevertheless, the Strand Hotel... seemed to ignore all this and everyone acted as though it was 1925. There was a fat lady pianist in the Palm Court with a rather seedy violinist alternating with a small swing orchestra. I loved it all.” Hockney depicted this scene in a drawing of Lancaster sitting in a chair in the very grand Palm Court, titled ‘Mark, Strand Hotel, Rangoon 1971’.”
DAVID HOCKNEY (British b. 1937)