Bowie/Collector at Sothebys this November

Damien Hirst Beautiful shattering slashing violent pinky hacking sphincter painting 1995
This November, Sotheby’s will stage Bowie/Collector, a three-part sale encompassing some 400 items from the private collection of legendary musician David Bowie. At the heart of which is a remarkable group of more than 200 works by many of the most important British artists of the 20th Century, including Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland.

Bowie’s famously inquisitive mind also led him to collect Outsider Art, Surrealism and Contemporary African art, as well as pieces by eccentric 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 uparalleled eclecticism.

Lots include:

Damien Hirst, Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting, 1995. Estimate £250,000–350,000
– Bursting with a magnificently dynamic energy in its pulsating kaleidoscope of reds, greens, blues and yellows, this is a vibrant and powerful example of Damien Hirst’s trademark ‘spin’ paintings. Hirst was one of only a handful of high-profile contemporary artists for whom Bowie publically expressed his admiration. “He’s different. I think his work is extremely emotional, subjective, very tied up with his own personal fears – his fear of death is very strong – and I find his pieces moving and not at all flippant,” said Bowie in an interview with the New York Times.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Air Power, 1984. Estimate £2,500,000–3,500,000
– In a 1996 issue of Modern Painters magazine, Bowie wrote of Jean-Michel Basquiat: “I feel the very moment of his brush or crayon touching the canvas. There is a burning immediacy to his ever evaporating decisions that fires the imagination ten or fifteen years on, as freshly molten as the day they were poured onto the canvas.” The Bowie-Basquiat connection is best known through the lens of Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film Basquiat, in which Bowie played the role of Andy Warhol, mentor and collaborator of the young artist. Air Power was acquired by Bowie the following year. “It comes as no surprise to learn that he [Basquiat] had a not-so-hidden ambition to be a rock musician,” wrote Bowie, “his work relates to rock in ways that very few other visual artists get near.”

Frank Auerbach, Head of Gerda Boehm, 1965. Estimate £300,000–500,000 – Bowie loved the rich, sculptural effects of Auerbach’s paintings. In a 1998 interview in the New York Times, he said to art critic Michael Kimmelman: “I find his kind of bas-relief way of painting extraordinary. Sometimes I’m not really sure if I’m dealing with sculpture or painting.” And Bowie clearly felt a deep affinity with the artist, whose work could provoke in him a whole gamut of reactions: “It will give spiritual weight to my angst. Some mornings I’ll look at it and go, ‘Oh, God, yeah! I know!’ But that same painting, on a different day, can produce in me an incredible feeling of the triumph of trying to express myself as an artist. I can look at it and say: My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks.” Head of Gerda Boehm, a portrait of the Auerbach’s cousin, was last exhibited in 2001 when Bowie lent it to the artist’s much-heralded retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The Bowie/Collector Exhibition and Auction

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. Ahead of the landmark ten-day event in London, preview exhibitions will be held in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

The Exhibition:

Bowie/Collector: 1–10 November, Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London

The Auctions:

Part I: Modern & Contemporary Art, Evening Auction, 10 November
Part II: Modern & Contemporary Art, Day Auction, 11 November
Part III: Post-Modernist Design: Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis Group, 11 November

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