Arts: When fame is in the frame: In a gallery in Hackney, art from the heart of rock. Andy Gill applauds its intentions, and forgives its pretensions

The exhibition 'little pieces from big stars' is the latest fund-raising initiative from War Child, a charity aiming to provide not only food and medicines for the people of Sarajevo and Mostar, but morale-boosting supplies of musical instruments and recordings as well. 'little pieces . . .' brings together close on a hundred artworks by musicians, to be auctioned at the Royal College tomorrow at prices ranging from around pounds 50, for one of several pencil drawings by EMF's Ian Dench, to about pounds 4,000, for a series of 14 computerised collage prints by David Bowie.

Some, like the gold-on- black symbols from his Faith album donated by George Michael ( pounds 800- pounds 1,000), or Bono's music box containing his Fly sunglasses, a few cigars and one of his old AmEx cards set in resin ( pounds 1,500- pounds 2,000), are of primarily historical import, while others, like Brian Eno's camouflage pieces ( pounds 500- pounds 700 each), have a quirky conceptual presence. There are a few obvious homages like David Sylvian's Intensive Care (For J B); judging by the wax and felt involved, it's for Joseph Beuys ( pounds 400- pounds 600).

There's even (or perhaps, inevitably) a contribution, Wood One, from Paul McCartney. An old hand at this charity lark ('It's good fun, keeps me off the streets), he admits he doesn't have much of an explanation for it other than that 'it's a nice- looking piece of wood with a few marks on it', and says, 'I chain-sawed it out of me woods. It took a couple of hours. In here, they've put it up for, like, pounds 1000 or something - the aim is just to earn a bit of money and direct the focus of attention to this charity. That's good enough for me. I don't think a lot. I'm pretty thick really.'

He seems almost apologetic - perhaps because this, his debut piece, is expected to fetch around 10 times the pounds 100- pounds 150 predicted for the small but perfectly formed Man Ray-influenced images by his wife Linda, a well-respected professional photographer. But then, as the former Ultravox vocalist John Foxx (a dab hand, on this evidence, at cross-hatching) explains, 'Attention makes value, as Brian says, so I imagine I'd choose work by the most famous stars.'

Maybe he'll be bidding for a brass-rubbing of a Thomas Crapper manhole cover submitted by Billy Bragg. 'Well, it's a Warhol-esque thing, innit, elevating the everyday to art,' he blags briefly. 'Nah, it's because I'm crap at drawing. It's almost like a tracing, innit? And also, I thought, I wonder if anyone else is going to do a Thomas Crapper manhole cover? At least I'll

be original.'

Bragg sees himself as part of the don't-give-up-your-day- job section, a heading which could also cover artistes as disparate as Kirsty MacColl and Frank Black. Some of the works score on other than strictly aesthetic grounds: if you buy the photo of Nigel Kennedy's graffiti'd Jaguar XJ6, you get the car itself as well (POA). And oddly one of the more amateurish-looking efforts on view, two pieces of cardboard with things stuck on them, turns out to be by a professional designer, Vaughan Oliver.

But some of these celebrities can actually handle pen and brush with some panache: you could justify the funding of our art schools simply on the strength of their contribution to British pop. You can't deny the technical polish of works by Vic Reeves (a cartoon in the style of Buddy Hickerson depicting Elvis and Frank (Sinatra) on their way to the shops, pounds 250- pounds 500); Billy Childish (a two- sided African-styled painting of a mermaid, a snip at pounds 100- pounds 120); the Levellers' Jeremy Cunningham (a red and blue woodblock print of a machete attack, pounds 200- pounds 250); or, in particular, David Bowie.

Bowie's series of 14 prints, which come in a boxed set, are very impressive. Collaged from various images scanned into a computer - a perspective grid pattern from a computer game, video stills and photographs, and a charcoal drawing by Bowie of a well- endowed Minotaur - they constitute a representation of an apocryphal play by one 'Joni Ve Sadd' performed at the Globe Theatre in February 2002. 'Joni Ve Sadd is an anagram of David Jones (Bowie's real name),' he explains. 'The idea is that, me being a Joni Ve Sadd admirer, I've collected all this memorabilia that surrounded this play. It's a fictitious set of memorabilia.'

Yes, Bowie is reinventing himself again - not only as Joni, but as a considerable figure in the art world: he recently contributed a massive profile of Balthus to Modern Painters magazine, and his collection of contemporary works range from the carvings of Glynn Williams to a Peter Howson painting rejected as too disturbing by the Imperial War Museum. Being a collector, Bowie is well- placed to give a few tips on what to bid for come 4 October. 'I'd say 30 per cent of it is stuff that I'd seriously think of buying. In fact there are four pieces that I will probably go for,' he reveals.

'Specifically, I think Kate Bush's pieces (Someone Lost at Sea Hoping Someone in a Plane Will Find Them and Someone in a Plane Hoping to Find Someone Lost at Sea, pounds 200- pounds 300 each) are absolutely terrific, wonderful. A very, very nice, serene, slightly romantic piece of work, very feminine. And this guy Ian Dench is tremendous.' Bowie gestures towards a Dench triptych, Rugby Posts 1, 2 and 3 ( pounds 50- pounds 100). 'It talks about line, it talks about life. I love the way he closes in on his object - as you read from left to right, he's closing in on these two objects. I think the way he uses his pencil is very authoritative: he uses his aggression as an artist, but doesn't let it run rampant. For technique, John Foxx is fabulous, and I like Eno's pieces as well. In fact, we're standing in front of one, Limbs of the Superheroes (the severed, muscly arms of Masters of the Universe figures, set in resin, pounds 450- pounds 550) - it's quite nice. Brian wins always with his sense of irony.'

Indeed he does. Eno, the show's curator, operates as usual in the narrow area where wit and irony teeter on the edge of cynicism, something he's at pains to forestall here. 'The biggest crime in England,' he acknowledges, praising the bravery of the contributors, 'is to rise above your station. Sell chemical weapons to dictators and you'll probably get a knighthood, but the moment a pop musician picks up a paintbrush, or a model writes a book, then the knives will really be out. It is symptomatic of English culture, I think, that we've developed cynicism and sarcasm to an extremely fine art. It provides us with some very interesting television shows and some very good comedians; but unfortunately, when it's generalised across a culture, it creates a culture which is prohibitive and restrictive.'

For Eno, the War Child initiative is important as a fund- and attention-raiser about the Bosnian situation. 'But what's equally important is that it's a morale raiser for the people in Bosnia: what makes a huge difference to them is knowing that they haven't been completely forgotten. They're Europeans, they know all these musicians, they've got Underworld and Paul McCartney records, and to know that these musicians have a little thought for them makes a big difference.'

'little pieces from big stars': Flowers East Gallery, 282 Richmond Road, Hackney, London E8 to 9 Oct. Auction: 9pm October 4, at the Henry Moore Gallery, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups


An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment


Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'


Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea