What a week it was for ... David Bowie

Jon Ronson joins Weird and Gilly and various spiders from Mars at the star's art show opening

I have only been at the private view for David Bowie's Afro/Pagan exhibition for 10 minutes when a young man introduces himself to me. His name is Simon-Naked-David, and he recognises me "from the solar system and all the beautiful things that lie within". His reason for attending this evening, he tells me, is that his "nakedness is a metaphor for David Bowie's art". By the end of the night, he promises, he will "become naked in this room", and then everyone will understand.

"Have you ever had your body painted?" he asks.

"No," I reply.

"Here's my card," says Simon-Naked-David. "Call me any time."

By the end of the night, my pocket is full to bursting with the business cards of various body-painters, existentialist mimes and performance artists. Everyone here's got an angle. The bizarre hotchpotch of bygone pop stars, Hollywood actors, pseudy European artists and dour models is charmingly anachronistic, like something out of an Andy Warhol party. I stand, fascinated, in the corner, and wait for something weird to happen. Simon-Naked-David turns out to be all talk, however. He stays clothed.

David Bowie, I guess, has always attracted a curious mlange of outlandish hangers-on and professionally "interesting" people. This is understandable. Bowie, the man who wrote such paradoxical and enigmatic lyrics as "The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks", and "That weren't no DJ that was hazy cosmic jive" could expect nothing less.

But the sad truth of the matter is this: in the past, everybody who worked in a clothes shop wanted to look like David Bowie - and now David Bowie looks like someone who works in a clothes shop.

He is, I've been told many times, a thoroughly likeable chap. He arrives a fashionable 36 minutes late, and grins with polite charm. He stays for an hour, and behaves with such temperate normality that one could almost forget he's enormously famous, if it weren't for the fact that he's flanked constantly - albeit discreetly - by four huge and terrifying bouncers.

The two phrases most used tonight are: "He's not very tall, is he?" and "doesn't Shirley Bassey look GREAT?" Shirley Bassey arrives early, sending a ripple of excitement through the throng. The paparazzi snap furiously, lighting up Cork Street like an electrical storm.

"Wow! Wonder if she'll sing?"

"Doesn't she look young?"

"Plastic surgery."

One man chats to her for 10 minutes, and comes away with his brow furrowed. "What happened?" I ask.

"She totally denied coming from Cardiff," he replies, mystified, "and said that she doesn't sing. She's a real weirdo."

And then the terrible, embarrassing truth dawns on us all. It isn't Shirley Bassey. It's Moira Stewart.

And what of the paintings? Like David Bowie's work in general, some are inspired, some are awful, all are showy. They're an eclectic mix of African and European, with a smattering of pop star-ish portraits, installations and sculptures. Sketches of Iggy Pop hang next to oil reproductions of adverts for African hairdressers, which sit next to miniature silver sculptures of his wife, Iman's, head, which are surrounded by his now famous Laura Ashley-esque wallpaper.

The work could be that of a dozen different artists. That has always been the way with Bowie the chameleon, but he claims that his art is more meaningful to him than his music, more From The Heart. I cannot comment on this, as I have no idea what particular state Bowie's heart is in - but one gets the impression that his African work, say, is inspired by a few hasty visits in a limo.

The art establishment has embraced him, to the extent that the Saatchi collection has already bought two. The work is selling surprisingly inexpensively: from £350 to the low thousands, which is how much an unknown artist would sell for. It was Brian Eno who convinced him to exhibit - he wouldn't have done it otherwise - and one gets the feeling that Bowie isn't that bothered about how his work is received.

By 8pm, the celebs - Jeremy Irons, Gina Bellman, the drummer from Queen and Martin Kemp - have left, and the paparazzi are beginning to drift away. Of the Bowie fans who earlier littered the street, only two remain. Their names are Weird and Gilly and they follow him everywhere. Bowie has left, but they are, they tell me, staying behind. To "drink in his essence".

News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

    Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral