See David Bowie's Art Collection Before Its London Auction

Bob Gruen
Davie Bowie at the 1975 Grammys.

Among the more notable offerings is the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1984 painting "Air Power," which is expected to fetch between £2.5 million to £3.5 million (about $3.3 million to $4.6 million) in the sale.

On Wednesday morning (July 20), more than two dozen works from David Bowie’s private art collection went on preview at Sotheby’s on George Street in London — the first stop in a world tour that will travel on to Los Angeles, New York and Hong Kong before returning to the British capital for a full 10-day public exhibition on Nov. 1. The previews will culminate in a three-part auction to be held on Nov. 10-11.

Fischer, Meine Richtige Mutter in Jungen Jahren (1985) (Photo: Courtesy)

On those two days, more than 400 items will go on sale, including over 200 works from Bowie’s impressive collection of modern and contemporary British artfrom such prized names as Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. Objects spanning outsider art (including figurative works from psychiatric patients in Vienna), surrealism, contemporary African art, as well as furniture from Ettore Sottsass, will also be represented. Among the more notable offerings is the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1984 painting “Air Power,” which is expected to fetch between £2.5 million to £3.5 million (about $3.3 million to $4.6 million) in the sale.
Basquiat, Air Power (1984) (Photo: Courtesy)

Rarely is an auction given such special treatment, said Simon Hucker, senior specialist in modern and post-war British art at Sotheby’s. "It’s quite unusual for us to do this with a 20th century art collection," he said. "The main exhibit will be on for 10 days, instead of the usual three. Bowie had a huge fan base, and we wanted to make sure as many people can see this as possible."

Bowie, who died on Jan. 10 at age 69 after a battle with cancer, was an avid, though somewhat private collector, occasionally penning interviews and art criticism for the British magazine Modern Painters, on whose editorial board he sat. He often attended auctions — including those at Sotheby’s — though he attracted so much attention he later sought more private means. “No one really knew to what extent he collected,” Hucker said, adding that he was impressed by Bowie’s collection of less famous, but well-respected, artists like Moore. “It’s a really good collection that happens to be owned by the coolest man of the 20th century.”

Many of the works directly inspired Bowie’s music. As he said of an Auerbach painting in a 1998 interview with The New York Times: "The work can magnify the kind of depression I’m going through. It will give spiritual weight to my angst. Some mornings I’ll look at it and go … 'My God, yeah! I want to sound how that looks!'"

"Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own," he added. "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."

The preview runs in London until Aug. 9.

Bomberg, Sunrise in the mountains, picos de asturias (1935) (Photo: Courtesy)

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