David Bowie’s art collection goes under the hammer for £24m

Auctioneer Oliver Barker fields bids at the sale of David Bowie's personal art collection. Picture: Getty Images
Auctioneer Oliver Barker fields bids at the sale of David Bowie's personal art collection. Picture: Getty Images
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Buyers have snapped up pieces from David Bowie’s vast personal art collection for a total of £24.3 million – after initial estimates predicted sales of between £8.1m to £11.7m.

Of the first lot of works sold at the Sotheby’s three-part sale, a 1984 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, called Air Power, sold for an unprecedented £7.1m after intense bidding.

Frank Auerbach’s painting Head of Gerda Boehm – a piece famously adored by Bowie – sold for £3.8m, ten times its estimate and a record for the artist.

Along with the Auerbach piece, the first session of auctions for Bowie’s collection broke 11 records for 20th Century British artists.

Of the lots purchased, a collaborative work by Bowie and Damien Hirst, called Beautiful Hallo Space-boy Painting, sold for more than double its estimate at £785,000. Works by Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Winifred Nicholson, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Henry Lamb were also bought by the highest bidders.

Sotheby’s said Thursday’s auction in London was a “white glove sale”, meaning every lot was sold.

The musician, who died in January aged 69, was a passionate collector of modern art and, during his life, kept his collection largely private.
He said of his love of art in 1998: “Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it.

“It can change the way I feel in the mornings. The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through.”

Collectors from 46 countries registered to bid for the 47 works on offer, after 37,000 people attended the display at Sotheby’s – the most visitors ever at a pre-sale exhibit in London.

Oliver Barker, the chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “David Bowie’s personal art collection captured the imagination of the tens of thousands who visited our exhibitions and the hundreds 
who took part in this evening’s sale.

“Sotheby’s is truly honoured to have had the opportunity to share this collection with the world and, in doing so, offer a fresh insight into the creative mind of one of the greatest cultural figures of our time.”

A spokesman for the Estate of David Bowie, which will receive the money raised at the auctions, said: “David always enjoyed sharing the works in the collection, loaning to museums and actively supporting the art and artists that were part of his world.

“While the family have kept certain pieces of particular significance, now was the time for others to share David’s love for these remarkable works and let them live on.”