David Hockney

On one of the Alberses’ trips to the Tyler Print Workshop in Bedford Village, David Hockney was also present. Ken Tyler and his staff did their utmost to keep Josef and Hockney as far away from one another as possible; on more than one occasion at the workshop, Josef, seeing Hockney’s “Swimming Pools,” voiced great antipathy toward them, and everyone wanted to prevent an encounter where insults might fly. Josef was famously vociferous about his dislikes and often did not hold back; it seemed that a meeting would lead to disaster.

Josef was signing Gray Instrumentation prints that day, and the crew at Tyler positioned him so that he was as far away as possible from Hockney, who was working on the Swimming Pools. Anni, meanwhile, was seated on a stool behind Josef, who had become increasingly frail, in case he needed her assistance in some way. Anni caught a glimpse of Hockney at the other end of the workshop. “Who is that man?” she asked. “He has hair exactly the way that Josef’s was when I met him: the same irresistible blond bangs. I must meet him; could one of you please bring him over.”

“Oh, shit,” one of the printmakers said under his breath, too softly for Anni to hear. But then he did as asked. When David Hockney came over, Anni told him how excited she was by his hair, and she explained who she and Josef were, asking Hockney, “Have you heard of the Bauhaus?”

He replied that it was a great honor to meet her, and she tapped Josef on the shoulder saying that she wanted him to meet David Hockney. “Hockney?” Josef said. “Yes, I know who you are. I think I read in the newspaper that a few weeks ago you and I both broke records at the place called Christie’s.”

Hockney smiled agreeably while Anni spoke again of the relationship of his and Josef’s hair. Josef followed the conversation attentively, adding, “Yours will probably turn white just like mine. And probably you, too, will not lose your hair and go bald. But hair like ours is impossible to manage; it just falls straight” Hockney said that he agreed with everything that Josef said, and had given up trying to control his hair by doing anything other than cutting it. Josef and Anni both smiled from ear to ear. Josef concluded the conversation. “Nice to meet you, Hockney,” and Anni also said what a pleasure it had been. The relief of the printmakers was palpable.