The year was 1989, and British artist David Hockney got invited to be a part of the São Paulo Biennial. There was just one problem. He'd had a retrospective the previous year, and collectors and museums were reluctant to loan out his work again so soon.

Hockney came up with a solution. Instead of mailing already-made artwork, he would send a fax with a new artwork that could be created on site.

"He was experimenting with a new technology," said curator Siri Engberg. "He had just come off of working with Tyler Graphics Ltd. on these super-complicated prints. They required a lot of labor and planning, and he was interested in something fast and immediate."

Fast and immediate, one could argue, like a meme is today.

This faxed artwork, "Breakfast With Stanley, Malibu" (1989) is one of more than 200 works in the exhibition "David Hockney: People, Places & Things," opening Saturday at Walker Art Center. Made up of paintings, prints, drawings and theater sets drawn primarily from the Walker's permanent collection, the show quietly rounds out the year as the holidays ramp up and everyone loses their minds.

One of the more influential artists of the 20th century, Hockney was part of the Pop Art movement. Born in the northern English city of Bradford in 1937, Hockney moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s because he was fascinated by California's light and heat.

It was L.A. that would make him famous, particularly his depictions of its swimming pools. His 1972 work "Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures)" scored $90.3 million at an auction in 2018. The following year Hockney relocated to Normandy, France (he had been splitting his time between California and England), so he could live out his days eating and smoking at restaurants while continuing to make art. ("Thank God for Normandy," he told the Daily Mail. "The French know how to live. They know about pleasure.")

The Walker exhibition encompasses six decades of work, including portraiture, still-lifes, domestic scenes, stage sets, landscapes and his most recent explorations with the iPad.

Long ties to Walker

Hockney has a long relationship with the Walker, going back to his 1983 exhibition "Hockney Paints the Stage," which showcased his engagement with theater and opera stage sets.

One gallery houses a large-scale painted environment with elements based on the set design for Francis Poulenc's opera "Les Mamelles de Tirésias." The characters he's assembled, including a cigarette smoker wearing a white-striped black coat and black-striped white pants — Hockney is a lifelong smoker — are actually a series of smaller paintings stacked together.

In his early work, Hockney was also depicting gay male sexuality at a time when this wasn't so common. In his 1961-63 series "A Rake's Progress," a graphic novel in 16 prints, we see a guy wearing glasses standing under a red-leaf tree, watching two men jog by.

"The paintings are very much about desire, a lifestyle, a kind of community that he surrounded himself with," said Engberg.

An artist who keeps up with the times, Hockney turned to iPad drawing in the early 2010s — a move that made sense considering his fascination with previous technologies such as the copy machine. "He was just doing kind of quick drawings and running them through the copier, sometimes manipulating the image so it would become like a funhouse," said Engberg. "He used the copier as a drawing tool."

So he did the same thing with the iPhone in 2009, followed by the iPad, which he drew on using a stylus pen.

"I could draw in the dark," he wrote in "My Window," a book about his iPad drawings. "I never even had to get out of bed."

Four digital prints of these works round out the Walker show, each depicting various people-less spring landscapes in his Yorkshire homeland. At times, the plethora of dots that make up tree branches remind of pointillism.

"Blown up on this scale, you start to see the different techniques of layering, drawing over other marks, playing with the blur versus something in sharp focus," said Engberg. "Patterning has always been a part of his work."

But most of all, the iPad painting programs "allow him to play. … This pattern can become a tree, a dot pattern could become a texture on the road."

David Hockney: People, Places & Things

Where: Walker Art Center, 725 Vineland Place, Mpls.

When: Dec. 18-Aug. 21. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., 11-5 Sun., 11-9 Thu., 11-6 next Fri.

Admission: $2-$15, free for ages 0-18 and for all on Thursday evenings. Masks required.

Info: or 612-375-7600.