Stacey’s Auctioneers and Valuers has a treat this season for the intersection of people who are passionate about both British Contemporary Art and felines: a rare ceramic cat executed by the artist David Hockney while he was still in art school, Artnet News reported Friday.
The sculpture, which comes with an estimate of £30,000 – £40,000 ($36,400 – $48,450), was a gift from Hockney to Peter and Wendy Richards of Bedfordshire in 1955. While a student at Bradford School of Art, Hockney and his friends had a penchant for hitchhiking to art exhibition across the United Kingdom.
In 1955, while on their way back to London, Hockney and his schoolmate Norman Stevens found their trip stalled by a heavy rainstorm. The two artists sought refuge on the Richards’ land, under the eaves of their cottage. When Peter and Wendy spotted the waterlogged students, they invited them in, made them tea, and dried their clothes.
When traveling Hockney would often gift a work to those he met along the way. The sculpture, which is thought to be the first of six such cat works that Hockney made and sent out as gifts, was given to the Richards via the mail. The three remained in touch and Hockney continued to send letters and drawings to the couple over the years.
“I really don’t know what to do with the cat,” Hockney once wrote in a letter to the Richards before giving them the sculpture, according to the BBC. “The postman said unless it’s really well packed in plenty of straw and sawdust it would be risky. I think we’ll wait and bring down the cat and plates personally.”
Similar Hockney ceramic cats have done well at auction. In 2011, Bonhams sold one for £40,000 ($48,309), at Christie’s this June another sold for a tidy £94,000 ($114,426).
Also on the block is a large ceramic dish Hockney designed with Stevens and two woodblock and hand-painted cards. The sale will commence on October 23.