British artist Hockney freed from Amsterdam elevator by firemen

THE HAGUE (AFP) – British artist David Hockney had to be freed by Dutch firefighters from an elevator in Amsterdam as he was about to open a new exhibition of his works.

The 81-year-old, who holds the record for the most expensive painting by a living artist, had been heading down at his hotel late last Wednesday when it suddenly stopped.

Hockney was in Amsterdam for the opening of Hockney-Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature at the Van Gogh Museum, which compares the British legend’s works with those of the Dutch post-impressionist.

In the lift with Hockney was a group of journalists including BBC reporter Jim Naughtie, who later interviewed him.

“We were in there half an hour,” Hockney said.

Asked if he had ever had a similar experience before, Hockney replied, “No, never.”

Naughtie said the lift had “jerked to a halt” and that nothing had happened when they pressed the alarm button.

Eventually – with the help of Geordie Greig, editor of Britain’s Daily Mail tabloid, who was waiting in the lobby – help came in the form of the Amsterdam fire brigade, Naughtie said.

Bottles of water were passed through a gap in the lift door – as well as a folding stool for the elderly Hockney.

Hockney cheerfully posed afterwards for pictures with the Dutch firemen, who gave thumbs-up signs.

An iconic 1972 swimming pool picture by Hockney – Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) – sold for USD90.3 million at Christie’s in New York last November, setting a new auction record for a living artist.

The Amsterdam exhibition examines the similarities between Hockney’s colourful pictures, especially his landscapes of his native Yorkshire, and the vibrant paintings of Dutch master Van Gogh.

British artist David Hockney poses with firemen after being freed from an elevator at an Amsterdam hotel on February 27. – AFP