Art FocusDavid Bowie: the Art Auction

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An icon of fashion, art and music, David Bowie was one of the most adored and critically feted artists of the past 50 years, someone who made an indelible mark on popular culture.

What many of his fans didn’t know, however, is that David Bowie was also a prolific collector of art—a pastime he kept largely hidden from public view, until now.

Bowie/Collector, taking place at Sotheby’s in London, is a three-part sale of around 400 items from David Bowie’s private art collection, encompassing paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and photographs.

‘Eclectic, unscripted, understated: David Bowie’s collection offers a unique insight into the personal world of one of the 20th century’s greatest creative spirits,’ said Oliver Barker, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe.

David Bowie was deeply immersed in the art world as an artist, critic, curator, publisher and magazine editor. A lifelong painter, he frequently mingled with the artistic communities of London, New York and Berlin, once meeting Andy Warhol at his famous ‘Factory’ studio in New York in 1971. He was later critically praised for his portrayal of the American Pop Art giant in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic, Basquiat.

See also: David Bowie: Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, The Goblin King, and Major Tom 

In 1994 David Bowie became part of the editorial board of Modern Painters magazine, and during his tenure he interviewed the likes of Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. In 1998 he launched an art books publishing company, 21, alongside Modern Painter editor Karen Wright, gallerist Bernard Jacobson and Sir Timothy Sainsbury. This was a period best noted for the time when Bowie hosted a party at Jeff Koons’ Manhattan studio for the launch of a book celebrating the life and work of Nat Tate, an entirely fictional artist created by his friend, the novelist William Boyd.

As a collector, David Bowie’s tastes were wide-ranging. Although a native of South London who was drawn to chroniclers of the city’s streets such as Harold Gilman, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, he was also fascinated with the British landscape, collecting artists such as Henry Moore and Ivon Hitchens. Bowie also often ventured beyond British art, acquiring pieces from the likes of everyone from early modernist pioneers such as Marcel Duchamp to Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as ‘Outsider’ artists from the Gugging Institute in Vienna, the work of Ettore Sottsass and his Memphis Design Group and contemporary African art.

‘David’s art collection was fuelled by personal interest and compiled out of passion,’ said a spokesperson for the estate of David Bowie. ‘He always sought and encouraged loans from the collection and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody. Though his family are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate—and acquire—the art and objects he so admired.’

Auction details at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London

Part I: Modern & Contemporary Art, Evening Auction, 10 November

Part II: Modern & Contemporary Art, Day Auction, 11 November

Part III: Post-Modernist Design: Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group, 11 November

Bowie/Collector will be exhibited at Sotheby’s New Bond Street in London from 1-10 November

See also: Lauren Bacall: Collection of a Hollywood Legend

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