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David Hockney with Bigger Trees Near Warter. Photograph: David Levene

David Hockney is no fool. He understands art history – he has, after all, written books about it. For almost half a century he has succeeded in maintaining a place in the world of art, however unfashionable or odd the directions he happened to be taking. He’s pursued his own interests, and at the same time kept his art in the public eye. And in giving his painting Bigger Trees Near Warter to the Tate he executed a masterstroke. This painting, which has just gone on view for all to see at Tate Britain, will do his reputation wonders as the century progresses. It is a triumph.

You thought Hockney was old hat? We all get it wrong. Art is beautiful because it makes fools of us. You can set up any ideology you like, define taste by any criteria you choose, and a work of art will come along to stand your prejudice on its head. If you prove by logic and erudition that art cannot come readymade, some young philosophe will display the most incredible found object that was ever put in a vitrine. This is what happened to critics 20 years ago. Nowadays, the prejudices are reversed – and so are the surprises. As the artistic ideas of the 1990s gradually sputter out, the life comes from elsewhere. From Bridlington, in this case.

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Jonathan Jones
Guardian

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