The works will be exhibited at the auctioneers’ Bond Street galleries from November 1-10 ahead of a 400-lot three-part auction entitled ‘Bowie/Collector’ . The consignment has an overall estimate “in excess of £10m”.
The singer and songwriter’s life as an art collector was largely a mystery to his fans. He is known to have bought from both dealers and auction houses, and also loaned out works for exhibitions but, for the most part, his collection was kept away from public view.
It was assembled with “great thoughtfulness on the basis not of reputation but of Bowie’s highly personal, intellectual response to the individual vision and individual works of particular artists”, according to Sotheby’s.
Bowie told The New York Times 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.”
A spokesperson for Bowie’s heirs said the family were keeping certain pieces of particular significance but that “it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired”.
As part of their marketing for the sale, Sotheby’s have released a promotional video which can be viewed below.
At the core of the exhibition and auction will be around 200 pieces of Modern and Contemporary British art, including works by Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Frank Auerbach and Damien Hirst.
As well as the British works, Bowie’s collection features examples of Outsider Art, Surrealism, Contemporary African art and even the work of the eccentric Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group. The sale will include a Sottsass ‘Casablanca’ sideboard from 1981 which is estimated at £4000-6000.
The top lot, however, is expected to be Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power, an acrylic and oilstick on canvas from 1984 that has an estimate of £2.5-3.5m. Prices for the artist have increased dramatically since Bowie bought the 5ft 6in high painting at Christie’s for a premium-inclusive £78,500 in November 1995.
Another of the unconventional pieces of 1960s Italian design is Bowie’s record player, a Brionvega Radiophonograph (model no RR 126) designed by Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni. It is estimated at £800-1200.
The three-part auction will comprise an evening sale and two day sales. The first will be an evening sale of Modern & Contemporary art on November 10, followed by a Modern & Contemporary art day sale and a Post-Modernist Design sale, both on November 11.