David Bowie was an extremely private person when it came to his art collection. Although everyone on the London gallery circuit knew that he passionately collected works of Modern and Contemporary British and International art, few had ever seen it.
A first glimpse came at the V&A’s ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibition where you could see that he had a strong interest in German Expressionism. He even tried his hand at painting himself in this style. What is apparent at the Sotheby’s sale is an evolution and refinement in his taste. German Expressionism is a jumping off point for his acquisitions following a natural progression into British immigrant artists like David Bomberg and Frank Auerbach and subsequently collecting modern Scottish artists such as John Bellany, Ken Currie and Peter Howson. Much underplayed however is his stint as the publisher of Modern Painters the seminal British art publication that he acquired in the 1990s. This was simultaneously timed with the rise of the YBAs and Bowie was there at the beginning along with Charles Saatchi to buy many works by Damien Hirst and others of the group. What is abundantly clear is that Bowie had his own discerning eye and chose what he liked and not necessarily what was in fashion.
From 1–10 November, the collection will be exhibited at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries in London, giving fans, collectors, art lovers and experts a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse themselves in the extraordinary range of objects that informed Bowie’s private world.
Bowie’s famously inquisitive mind also led him to collect Outsider Art, Surrealism and Contemporary African art, as well as pieces by Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group. Bowie’s diverse tastes nurtured his extensive archive of important works from celebrated, and less widely-known, artists in a collection of unparalleled eclecticism.
What is abundantly clear is that Bowie had his own discerning eye
On the evening of 10 November, the most important pieces from the David Bowie Collection will go under the hammer, led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s magnificent Air Power. At the heart of the auction is Bowie’s collection of 20th-century British Art, which moves from Harold Gilman’s Interior (Mrs Mounter), painted during the First World War, to works by Damien Hirst from the 1990s by way of David Bomberg, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. The selection is embellished by keys works by Marcel Duchamp, who Bowie cited as a major influence, and Francis Picabia as well as a 16th-century Venetian altarpiece by Tintoretto.
Part II of the Bowie/ Collector auction reveals the full extent of David Bowie’s eclectic and understated collection. Alongside paintings, drawings and sculpture by 20th-century British artists there are German Expressionist prints, Picasso ceramics, collections of Contemporary African and Outsider Art, and a Surrealist chess set by Man Ray, all of which provide a unique insight into Bowie’s artistic vision and his passionate collecting journey.
Bowie was a voracious collector of the works of eccentric Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and the Milan-based Memphis group. The final session of the sale series will comprise pieces such as the iconic Post-Modernist ‘Casablanca’ Sideboard, from the first Memphis collection of 1981, and the unconventional record player, the RR 126 Radio-phonograph, designed in 1965 by the brothers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Brionvega, both of which are definitive pieces of cutting edge Italian design fitting for the most innovative and daring musician of his generation.
David Bowie was not just a collector of art, but an informed authority on the subject. This was most clearly demonstrated in his role as an active member of the Editorial Board of Modern Painters magazine, and the founding of his arts publishing house, 21. He contributed regular in-depth interviews with artists such as Tracey Emin, Balthus and Damien Hirst.
David Bowie’s art and design collection goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s London on 10th and 11th November. Mounted as a three-part sale encompassing over 350 works from the private collection of this legendary musician and actor. At the heart of the sale is a remarkable group of more than 200 works by many of the most important Modern and Contemporary British artists of the 20th Century, including Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland.