Sotheby’s will auction off David Bowie’s private art collection

Frank Auerbach, “Head of Gerda Boehm,” 1965 and Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Air Power,” 1984 (Credit: Sotheby’s)

The 380-piece art collection from recently deceased superstar David Bowie is hitting the auction block this November in London at Sotheby’s. The total value of the works is estimated to be more than $13 million.

Bowie, an artist himself — he painted the self-portrait cover for his 1995 album “Outside” — had amassed a substantial lot of works featuring big name artists such as Basquiat, Frank Auerbach and Damien Hirst, which are expected to fetch the most money at the upcoming event. One piece expected to garner a generous sum is “Air Power”, the five-foot-tall painting done by Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1984, with an estimated value of $4.7 million. Bowie bought it at Christie’s in London in November 1995 for a mere $120,122! “The Man That Sold the World” certainly knew how to buy the art!

Damien Hirst, Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting, 1995
Damien Hirst, “Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting,” 1995 (credit: Sotheby’s)

Artnet News points out the personal connection Bowie had to the painter, having played the role of Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film “Basquiat”. “It comes as no surprise to learn that [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. He seemed to digest the frenetic flow of passing image and experience, put them through some kind of internal reorganization and dress the canvas with this resultant network of chance.”

Likewise, Bowie bought Frank Auerbach’s “Head of Gerda Boehm” for a pittance (£54,300) and it is now estimated to net $665,000. The musician had very strong feelings about the piece, telling the New York Times in 1998, “My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks” and adding, “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.”

In his later collecting, Bowie’s interest turned towards contemporary art, and he snagged a seven-foot-diameter spin painting by Damien Hirst called “Beautiful, Shattering, Slashing, Violent, Pinky, Hacking Sphincter Painting” dated 1995, which is also expected to get noteworthy bidding action.

It’s no surprise that the rock star’s collection should have a tour of its own. Prior to auction, the collection will be touring, first on view in London at Sotheby’s in London from July 20–August 9. It will then head west to Los Angeles from September 20-21 and onto New York City from September 26-29 and Hong Kong from October 12-15. Finally, it will head to London for auction.