David Bowie’s full £10m art collection displayed online ahead of Sotheby’s auction

Bowie’s art collection was fuelled by his personal interest and compiled out of passion

Jess Denham
Friday 21 October 2016 10:53
Bowie was best known for his music but was also an artist and avid art collector
Bowie was best known for his music but was also an artist and avid art collector

David Bowie’s £10m private art collection has been displayed in full for the first time online.

Hundreds of artworks owned by the late singer will be auctioned by Sotheby’s next month, including pieces by Damien Hirst, Frank Auerbach and Stanley Spencer.

A small selection of highlights from Bowie’s personal collection was unveiled over the summer but the full scope of Bowie/Collector has now been published. The musician, who died of cancer aged 69 in January, always loaned generously to museum exhibitions, but the catalogue reveals an avid passion for collecting and deep intellectual engagement with the artworks he owned.

Bowie’s collection is as eclectic and thought-provoking as his music, with more than 350 artworks ranging from post-war British avant-garde painting to German Expressionism and surrealist pieces created in the aftermath of the first democratic elections in South Africa.

The most valuable of the masterpieces is US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power, which is expected to fetch up to £3.5m. Bowie bought the artwork after playing the artist’s mentor Andy Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat. More than 120 pieces of 20th century sculpture and furniture also feature, including a Sixties record player by Italian designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and the Casablanca sideboard from the Milan-based Memphis group’s first collection in 1981.

While Bowie did not draw attention to his interest in art, he joined the editorial board of Modern Painters magazine in 1994 and interviewed the likes of Tracey Emin and Jeff Koons. He painted throughout his life, immersing himself in the artistic communities of London, New York and Berlin. He helped launch the art book publishing company 21 in 1998 and took part in the infamous hoax which saw him host an elaborate party at Koons’s Manhattan studio for a book about an artist named Nat Tate, who it later emerged had been totally made up by his friend, the novelist William Boyd.

Bowie told The New York Times in a 1998 interview that art was “the only thing” he’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,” he said. “The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through.”

Bowie’s art collection was fuelled by his personal interest and compiled out of passion, a spokesperson from his estate said, adding that he had “always sought and encouraged loans and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody”. Bowie’s family are keeping artworks of particular significance, but have decided that it is now time to “give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired”.

Bowie/Collector will be open to visitors at Sotheby’s London from 1-10 November, before auctions on 10 and 11 November. There will be three days of talks and events from 4-6 November, with speakers exploring Bowie’s love of collecting and his influence on fashion, art and design.

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