Artist David Hockney rescued by firefighters from Amsterdam elevator

Artist in lift for around 30 minutes

Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

British artist David Hockney 

British artist David Hockney is known as a voracious smoker, but the habit got him into a scrape in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Hockney, 81, had to be rescued from a hotel lift, which got stuck as he was on his way for a cigarette. The artist was in the lift for around 30 minutes, according to staff at the Conservatorium Hotel, where the incident occurred.

Ruurd Hooijer, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, told CNN in a phone interview that the lift got stuck after too many people piled in. "It's something we have never experienced before," Hooijer said, adding that the occupants were rescued by the fire brigade.

Hockney was then able to get outside for his cigarette and carry on with a planned interview. "He took a seat in our courtyard and had a cup of English breakfast tea," said Hooijer.

The artist was in the lift with a number of journalists, including veteran BBC presenter James Naughtie, who tweeted about the incident and described the experience in a segment BBC Radio 4's Today program on Thursday morning.

Naughtie said the group were in the lift when it suddenly jerked to a halt. "We shuffled around, wondering if the lift would be tricked into moving -- it just wobbled," he said.

Eventually they managed to force the doors slightly open and Geordie Greig, editor of the UK's Daily Mail newspaper, took control of the situation like a "Boy Scout," Naughtie said.

Bottles of water were passed in, as well as a folding stool for the octogenarian artist to sit on. Soon enough, the fire brigade arrived and started working to free the group.

"With a creak and a bang, the door was wrenched back," said Naughtie. "We climbed out to cheers from the crowd that had gathered in the lobby."

After the group were freed the firefighters gathered round to get a picture with Hockney.

The artist was in Amsterdam for the opening of a new show at the Van Gogh Museum, titled "Hockney -- Van Gogh: The Joy of Nature," which explores the influence of the Dutch painter on Hockney's work.

"Nature is great. Van Gogh worshipped nature. He might have been miserable, but that doesn't show in his work," said Hockney in a press release for the exhibition. "There are always things that will try to pull you down. But we should be joyful in looking at the world."

The exhibition is the latest achievement in a stellar career for Hockney. In 2018, his painting "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold for $90.3 million at Christie's in New York, smashing the auction record for a living artist.

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