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David Bowie mural
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Thierry Ehrmann

David Bowie's massive art collection comes to NY

Written by
Christopher Tarantino

The art of The Man Who Sold the World's is up for sale. 

In addition to being a painter himself and playing painter/mentor Andy Warhol in the film BasquiatDavid Bowie was himself an avid art collector. "The only thing I buy obsessively and addictively is art," he once told the BBC. Approximately 400 pieces from his private collection—which includes work from Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Graham Sutherland and Marcel Duchamp—will be auctioned off at Sotheby's in November as part of the three-part Bowie/Collector sale. But first, the never-before-seen-collection will get a worldwide roadshow preview with stops in Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles and yes, New York (Sept 26-29).

The collection is expected to fetch upwards of $13 million total with the most valuable piece being Jean-Michel Basquiat's five-foot tall 1984 painting Air Power, valued at $5 million, which Bowie bought for only $120,000 after wrapping on the film Basquiat. The collection is unique not only for his star power, but because Bowie bought pieces simply based on his own visceral response to the work, without regard for style or time period and not for investment or public display. “David’s art collection was fueled by personal interest and compiled out of passion,” his estate has said, and the family will be “keeping certain pieces of particular significance.” Dominated by 20th century British artists, the private collection also contains contemporary African art, surrealism, outsider art, sculptures, furniture, as well as work by the Memphis Group and eccentric Italian designer Ettore Sottsass. Or, for the music fan, may we suggest Bowie's one-of-a-kind 1965 "radio-phonograph" which he played his records on, as the ultimate conversation starter/deal closer. 

An art-school grad himself, Bowie also served on the editorial board of Modern Painters magazine in the 1990s and even launched 21 Publishing to release art books. The company famously held an April 1st party celebrating "the life and work" of American abstract expressionist Nat Tate who "destroyed 99.9% percent of his work," "leapt to his death from the Staten Island ferry" and never actually existed "IRL." At the April 1, 1998 party at Jeff Koons' house, Bowie spoke about the faux-artist (fartist?) along with Picasso biographer John Richardson, who discussed Tate's "friendship" with Picasso, creating the art world's original Mr. Brainwash. So yeah, David Bowie was also wayyyyy better at pranks than everyone too. 

If you simply must get a preview of the preview—and are cool parting with just $143 including shipping & handling—you can pre-order Sotheby's set of Bowie/Collector catalogs right now.

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