David Bowie is many things to many people, perhaps more so in death than in life. He’s certainly a rock star and a legend of popular culture, whatever you think or feel about his music. The beloved icon, who died January aged 69 from cancer, maintains an incredible legacy of transcendent albums and brilliantly reinvented alter egos.
His multi-faceted art collection, set for a keenly anticipated London sale by Sotheby’s, might mark him as an important art collector too. In life, his art collection was a private affair that stirred little interest. In death, well, everyone wants to know what role art (other than his own) played in his life and if his collection is significant. The world gets its answer as the collection travels for display internationally, to be followed by the auction in London later this fall.
Bowie’s amassed paintings, sculptures, and design items from his life-long collection were briefly on view at Sotheby’s Los Angeles hub, located in a tower in Century City (it concluded Wednesday, September 21). In addition to LA, Sotheby’s will display a selection of works at their venues in New York (September 26-29) and Hong Kong (October 12-15), before a 10-day homecoming display (November 1-10) culminating in a penultimate three-day auction in London on November 10 and 11. The collection is estimated at more than £10m ($13m).
Simon Hucker, Sotheby’s senior specialist in modern and postwar British art, described Bowie’s collection to The Guardian as “quiet and meditative,” as well as “unusual and unpredictable, as you’d guess with Bowie.”
The array spans Harold Gilman’s “Interior (Mrs Mounter),” a portrait of an English cleaning lady in a Tottenham Court Road room (1917); Ettore Sottsass’s Enorme Telephone (1986); Wyndham Lewis’s “Circus Scene” (1913-14); Patrick Caulfield’s “Foyer,” a 1973 portrait of a cinema entrance, valued up to £600,000; Damien Hirst’s “Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking, Sphincter Painting,” valued up to £350,000; and Frank Auerbach’s “Head of Gerda Boehm,” valued up to £500,000. (Of Auerbach’s work, Bowie notably said: “I want to sound like that looks.”) More affordable works by lesser-known artists balance out the assorted value spectrum.
Bowie often purchased works by directly contacting the artists in question, sometimes visiting their studios to acquaint himself with the makers and the oeuvres both. Bowie himself studied art and design as a young man at a technical college in the suburbs of London.