See David Bowie’s Art Collection at Sotheby’s Three-Day Auction Preview
This is your chance to see Bowie's collection in person.
The world lost one of the greats this year, when musician, actor, and artist David Bowie died on January 10 at age 69. Fans still grieving his unexpected passing now have a unique opportunity to see some of the artwork owned by the the legendary performer. Ahead of a November auction of Bowie’s personal collection, Sotheby’s New York is welcoming the public to its Upper East Side headquarters for a preview of many of the roughly 400 works on offer.
The September 26–29 preview comes to New York by way of Los Angeles, where it was on view September 20 and 21, and will travel to Hong Kong (October 12–15) before touching down for an extended 10-day showing (November 1–10) ahead of the November 10 and 11 sale at Sotheby’s London.
Bowie’s family is retaining a handful of works that have personal significance, but the sale, organized by the singer’s estate, features a broad range of work that is reflective of his many talents, interests, and penchant for personal reinvention. One recurring theme, however, is Bowie’s support for British artists, who feature prominently in his holdings.
“I knew he had good things, but it’s really good,” said Simon Hucker, Sotheby’s senior specialist in modern and post-war British art. “If this was a collection of 20th-century British art from anybody, it’d be really exciting, but that it’s his just makes it spectacular.”
Though the sale will disperse Bowie’s collection, the auction house is eager to offer the public this rare, intimate glimpse into his personality. “He was a very private guy, about everything, and collecting is just part of what he did as David Jones the person, rather than David Bowie the performer,” Hucker noted. “This is not an art adviser’s collection. This is his.”
Hucker praised Bowie’s holdings for their quality, depth, and diversity, pointing to colorful objects by 1980s era Italian design and architecture collective the Memphis Group, which coexist with early Romuald Hazoumé sculptures that Bowie acquired at the first Johannesburg Biennale in 1995. (He was in South Africa to accompany his wife, Iman, on a Vogue shoot). This desire to “go out and find the local scene,” was Bowie’s M.O., said Hucker.
Bowie’s expansive collection included more work than he could keep at his home at any given time, and Sotheby’s isn’t revealing, for example, which canvas hung above the dining room table at his New York apartment.
One piece that we know that Bowie displayed prominently at his home, however, was Frank Auerbach’s Head of Gerda Boehem, an intense 1965 piece with thick layers of oil paint.
“The work can magnify the kind of depression I’m going through,” said Bowie of the painting to the New York Times in 1998. “It will give spiritual weight to my angst. Some mornings I’ll look at it and go, ‘Oh, God, yeah! I know!’ But that same painting, on a different day, can produce in me an incredible feeling of the triumph of trying to express myself as an artist. I can look at it and say, ‘My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks.'”
Among the other boldfaced names represented in the New York preview is Beautiful, hallo, space-boy painting, a 1995 spin painting Bowie made with his good friend Damien Hirst, and two canvases by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Bowie famously played Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat, and, as Hucker pointed out, both men were part of that “downtown scene in the 80s in New York where art, music, and clubs were all kind of interweaving.”
At Sotheby’s, the work is presented like a museum exhibition, with just two large-scale photos of the singer paying homage to his celebrity. “It’s important to his family that we represent the serious nature of the collection,” said Hucker. “There are no boundaries, no hierarchies; it doesn’t matter if it’s famous, whether it’s expensive…”
And, for three days only, it’s all available for the public to see for free. Hucker explained, “We thought that’s what David would want.”
The “Bowie/Collector” sale will be held at Sotheby’s London, November 10 and 11, 2016.
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