A look inside David Bowie’s personal art collection
Last relics of Ziggy Stardust
On January 8th, David Bowie turned 69, and in celebration he released a new album, entitled Blackstar. Two days later, on January 10th, he passed away. To those Bowie tragics among us, even the mention of his name still brings a distant pang in the chest. Of all the music legends 2016 has taken, Bowie's death caused an exceptionally raw kind of heartbreak reserved for someone who was never quite human anyway.
He was a true romantic, not in the way that modern American cinema would have you believe, but in the sense of being a hyper-emotional and intuitive soul, who lived to create, to express and to connect, up until his very last moments. In his music video for Lazarus - a harrowing, premeditated goodbye letter to the world - Bowie is sitting at a desk frantically scrawling on a notepad, face wrinkled in concentration, writing so furiously that his hand spills off the page. To me, it's screaming that Bowie had so much left to say and to create.
This ethos punctuated his whole existence, including his approach to art. He was someone who collected art for love, for beauty, inspiration and contemplation, rather than for money or status. Needless to say, the appetite for Sotheby's record breaking exhibition and auction titled 'Bowie / Collector' was enormous, with bidders from all corners of the globe clamouring at the chance to nab their own piece of stardust from the man who fell to earth.
One of the first items on view after strolling through the foyer of Sotheby's London headquarters was Bowie's 1960s Brionvega record player (above), which he had designed as a "musical pet". It's not in mint condition, a little worn around the edges from years of loving use, but what a thrill to get your paws on an item which was such an obvious source of joy. It went under the hammer for £257,000.
Born in South London, it's perhaps no surprise that Bowie was drawn to chroniclers of the capital's streets such as Harold Gilman and Frank Auerbach. "My god, yeah! I want to sound like that looks," David Bowie said of British artist Frank Auerbach's work in the New York Times in 1998. Auerbach's painting Head of Gerda Boehm fetched £3.8m.
The appeal of the Jean-Michel Basquiat pieces may have been enhanced by the fact that Bowie played Andy Warhol in the 1996 film of Basquiat's life. Basquiat's Air Power had an upper valuation of £3.5m but ended up selling for more than double that amount. An untitled Basquiat painting dating from 1984 fetched £2.4m - more than three times its pre-sale estimate.
An array of pastel-hued furniture, lighting and ceramics was the centrepiece for the main room at Bowie / Collector. Bowie's obsession was with Memphis Design, a form of architecture and design founded by Ettore Sottsass in the early 1980s. The style relies heavily on bold, colourful, and asymmetrical shapes. The Big Sur sofa sold for £77,500 despite also being valued at £3,000 - £5,000.
Perhaps some of the most treasured items to Bowie were his collaborations with modern artist and friend Damien Hirst. Bowie worked with Hirst on Beautiful, hello, space-boy painting 1995, which was sold alongside Hirst's second edition from his 'spin' series Shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting. The paintings sold for £785,000 and £755,000 respectively.
In the now-famous interview with The New York Times in 1998, David Bowie said: "Art should be open enough for me to develop my own dialogue with it", and on many occasions, that's exactly what he did through his music and lyrics. In true David Bowie style, his art collection is another meaningful, ambiguous layer through which we can relive and reinterpret his incredible life's work.
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