Date: January 8th 2016

Location: Faculty of Arts and Design

Context: Preparations for graduation thesis seminar

News: David Bowie dies at 69

I remember hearing my heart drop as I read the news on my phone. I received a text message from my brother that morning saying that he wanted me to find out by myself, and that he was sorry. It wasn’t his fault.

I was playing two-day-old Blackstar on my iPod on the bus ride to school an hour before, and had frequently impersonated Ziggy in his sanguine attitude to cultivate self-esteem in times of defeat.

He was “a chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature”*. Best known for his musical artistry, Bowie ruled the musical pop charts for almost half a decade. With fancy friends like Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, Bowie’s life was a roller-coaster ride of fun, fame and fabulous glory.

Gavin Evans Photography, David Bowie, 1995

Bowie’s career was infested with artistic and cultural influences; he designed his own costumes and surrounded himself with artist friends. He also had an addiction for acquiring art and had been quoted saying how “art was seriously, the only thing [he] ever wanted to own”.

In 1995 he famously purchased two Basquiat paintings, a year ahead of the release of Julian Schnabel’s film Basquiat in which Bowie played the artist’s mentor and friend, Andy Warhol. This was all too serendipitous, since just 24 years earlier, in 1971, Bowie performed his song Andy Warhol  in front of the artist at his infamous New York City studio, The Factory.

David Bowie (left) and Jeffrey Wright (right) as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat respectively in Julian Schnabel’s film Basquiat

After his sudden death in 2016, Bowie’s family stated that around 400 artworks -totaling 65% of his private collection- including the two Basquiats, were to be sold at three Sotheby’s auctions in late 2017. The reason behind this was that they “didn’t have space to store it”.

The auctions tolled $41.1 million, breaking world records for 59 of the artists it housed, with Basquiat’s 1984 Air Power being both the collection’s highlighted and highest selling piece. It was hammered off at $8.8 million. And when considering Bowie’s original purchase for a price tag of a mere $120,000, it was a massive gain.

Bowie’s art collection was very dear to him. Before the auction, it went on a global farewell tour where fans of the musician could walk into galleries and feast their eyes upon what once decorated the Starman’s private hallways and living rooms.

Below is a selection of those works:

Click on images to see artwork details
Images courtesy indicated in captions.
*Song lyrics from The Bewlay Brothers by David Bowie