Bowie / Collector at Sotheby's

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Last week we dropped by Sotheby's for a sneak peak at Bowie's art collection to be auctioned off later this week.

Words by Danielle Morgan

A 1965 Italian radio phonograph record player, yellowing and slightly weather-beaten owing to years sat in the window of his Manhattan apartment is a seminal glimpse into the down time of one of the 20th century's greatest musicians, and the first piece you see when you enter the exhibition space, shortly followed by a large circular drip painting and a small unassuming fish suspended in formaldehyde, Untitled Fish for David.

1965 Italian Radio Phonograph by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Bowie's personal record player
'Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting' and 'Untitled Fish for David', both by Damien Hirst

Art, according to Bowie, was the only thing he'd even wanted to own and it is evident from the exhibit that it was imperative to his creative processes as a music artist. His phases of collecting seem almost addictive as we pass through the exhibit of works. As we roamed through the collection, I wondered where Bowie got the time to collect such an extensive array of vast and varied pieces, and almost all completely hidden from the public eye. Among the works on display is an impressive collection of Memphis Design furniture, a large quantity of which by designer Ettore Sottsass. There is probably no part of the collection that epitomises Bowie's artistic output more than this abstract, completely madcap furniture. It feels as though the very essence of Bowie's most flamboyant and iconic alter ego Ziggy Stardust itself is ingrained within the pieces. His love of African and Outsider art, as well as Modern British art from the likes of John Bellany and Damien Hirst, all make impressive appearances throughout the collection too. And if you were in any doubt that Bowie was a serious collector, there are a few John Michel-Basquiat's thrown in for good measure, one estimated to fetch between £2 500 000 and £3 500 000. So reticent was the extent of Bowie's impressive art collection that the only tangible link we can make between Bowie and his love of Basquiat when he was alive was a short piece he wrote of the artist in Modern Painters, and a role as Andy Warhol in indie biopic Basquiat, in which he even wore Warhol's original wigs during filming.

Ettore Sottsass Furniture

A collection as diverse as this could only have been curated by one man. When I take in the enormity and complexity of the collection, it is not surprising that David Jones is the man behind bringing this divergent and eclectic range of works together.

Open to the public until 10th November, the collection will be auctioned off in 3 instalments when the collection goes on sale over the 2 days, these works are an intimate insight into one our much loved, much missed musical icons.

'Fishermen in the Snow' by John Bellany, One of the first British works Bowie collected at auction
African figurines by Norman Catherine

'I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring.' It seems as though this completely unexpected and unique body of works was his next in a line of gifts to bestow upon us. For now at least, Bowie isn't quite done with us yet.

Find out more about Sotheby's Bowie/Collector auction here.