You Can Buy David Bowie's Art Collection (If You Have the Cash)

The Thin White Duke's art collection is a glimpse into how he thought about creativity.

by Beckett Mufson
14 July 2016, 3:50pm

David Bowie, © Gavin Evans

David Bowie's art collection is going to auction at Sothebys in November, shedding a light on the private relationship the Thin White Duke had with his favorite artworks. Before being sold in a London exhibtion called Bowie/Collector in November, a preview of the works will tour the world from August to October, stopping in London, New York, L.A., and Hong Kong, providing an eclectic look into Bowie's thoughts about creativity.

It's well documented that the work in his home had an incredible impact on Bowie, not just as a person, but as an artist. In reaction to Frank Auerbach's sculptural 1965 painting, Head of Gerda Boehm, Bowie told The New York Times, “My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks." Discussing art's role in his everyday life, he continues, "Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it. It can change the way I feel in the mornings. The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through." Alongside Auerbach, the decades-spanning collection includes artwork from Jean Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, the Surrealists, outsider artists, and a slew of contemporary African artists.

Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1965, Oil on board £300,000-500,000

Sothebys will also auction a series of Ziggy Stardust-worthy design items, like a silver, gold, and red cabinet by Milan designer Ettore Sottsass' Memphis Design Group, and a Brionvega stereo and turntable designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. “As a collector, Bowie looked for artists with whom he felt some connection, and for works that had the power to move or inspire him," says Simon Hucker, Senior Specialist in Modern & Post-War British Art at Sotheby’s. Both of these items look like set pieces from Bowie's iconic music videos, illuminating some of those connecctions between reality and the worlds Bowie constructed on stage and set for half a century. 

The artworks that will be on display at Bowie/Collector and the four previews don't represent the artist's entire collection. As Sothebys representative Darrell Rocha tells The Creators Project, "The family are keeping a substantial number of works along with those that have particular significance to them, but the scale of the collection is such that there is too much for them to retain and enjoy everything." Just as in his life, we only see a part of the collection that nourished the shapeshifting rock star through his army of personas. Also as in his life, there will be plenty for everybody.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Air Power, 1984, Acrylic and oilstick on canvas £2.5-3.5m

Damien Hirst Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting, 1995, Household gloss on canvas £250,000-350,000

Ettore Sottsass ‘Casablanca’ Sideboard, 1981 £4,000-6,000

Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni, Brionvega Radiophonograph, model no RR 126, 1965, £800-1,200

Harold Gilman, Interior (Mrs Mounter), 1917, Oil on canvas, £150,000-250,000

Romuald Hazoumé, Alexandra, 1995, Found objects, £5,000-£7,000

Peter Lanyon, Witness, 1961, Oil on canvas, £250,000-350,000

The David Bowie art and design collection preview will be in London July 20–August 9, in Los Angeles September 20–21, in New York September 26–29, and in Hong Kong October 12–15. The Bowie/Collector auction will be November 1–10. David Bowie's most recent album is , which came out shortly after his 69th birthday and shortly before his death. It had been reported that he planned more music for posthumous release.


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