Tag Archives: David Bowie

➤ Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

Damien Hirst, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art,

Damien Hirst, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, est £40,000–60,000 – From the Young British Artist who preserved an adult tiger shark in a giant tank, this gift from Damien Hirst to David Bowie contains a tiny 2-inch fish in formaldehyde, as “a profound inquiry into human existence”. Here displayed at Sotheby’s London, reflecting and refracting other art in the saleroom. (Photography © Shapersofthe80s)

BEFORE THE AUCTION OF DAVID BOWIE’S ART at Sotheby’s, treat yourself to the free exhibition of 350 works owned by the pop star who died this year. His eclectic taste embraces pop art, Damien Hirst, German expressionism, Tintoretto, Surrealism, Contemporary African, a chess set by Man Ray, a couple of Duchamps, and much primary coloured contemporary furniture from Italy’s Memphis Group (which occupies much of Part 3 of the sale, dedicated to Design). The auction represents about half of Bowie’s entire art collection which he admitted to buying obsessively over 30 years. The evidence is that he had a sharp eye.

What’s surprising is the number of eminently collectable smaller items being offered at affordable prices which are bound to attract first-timers to next week’s three sales – all offering online bidding. Painted tabletop sculptures in aluminium by Ivor Abrahams are priced at a few hundred pounds, his bronze sculptures at perhaps £1,500. Ceramic plates decorated by Picasso and Cocteau are priced at just over a thousand and there’s even Sir Stanley Spencer’s artist’s palette for £2,000. Having toured the Bowie exhibition highlights to New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, Sotheby’s is geared up for long-distance bidding.

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The full set now on display makes an engaging and mischievous show, crammed with paintings and sculpture that may not be masterpieces, as the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz has noted [video below], but by and large represent good examples from highly regarded artists. In light of which, many of Sotheby’s estimated starting prices seem temptingly low.

Frances Christie, head of its Modern & Post-War British Art Department, explained why they have to apply prevailing market prices: “It’s hard to quantify what the ‘Bowie effect’ might be. We have to take into account market precedents, so for example, the world record for Peter Lanyon’s work is £370k. The Lanyon painting Trevalgan in the sale is not as well known so we have priced it at about £250k, which I think is fair. The range of our estimates can only be a guide.”

“David was like a child, childish and childlike
when he came to see me in the studio and we made
a giant spin painting together” – Damien Hirst

Frances is pleased that as a collector Bowie favoured 20th-century British modernists and, with some prices starting in the low thousands, this sale might help spread the word abroad for names such as Gill, Wadsworth, Bomberg, Minton, Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, Hitchens, Tunnard, Armitage, Chadwick, Kossoff, not forgetting Moore, Sutherland, Auerbach and Scott.

Gompertz remarked: “Bowie’s taste appears to have been fairly conservative but very specific. He liked the art that came from the same place as him: mid-20th-century UK. It is art that you could argue shared his philosophy, a philosophy that went on to shape his aesthetic. It is art that questioned, that was preoccupied with the surface, that had many sides; that never quite settled. Art that performed.”

Just totting up the top estimates for the 47 Modern and Contemporary works in Part 1 of Sotheby’s sale – which stars Francis Picabia, Damien Hirst, Patrick Caulfield and Jean-Michel Basquiat – could yield £11.6million. How the “Bowie premium” might inflate these auctioneer’s estimated prices is what promises to keep us on our toes throughout Thursday and Friday.

painting, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art, Memphis Group, Paul Feiler

Bowie/Collector in a nutshell: Paul Feiler, Horizontal Blue + Sienna, 1960, oil on board, est £30,000–50,000. Right, painting by Ian McKever (est £3k), plus bronzes by Denis Mitchell (est from £5k), Memphis table by Sottsass (est £3k)

➢ The Bowie/Collector exhibition is free, unticketed and open to all at Sotheby’s, Bond Street, until noon on Thursday 10 Nov, 2016

➢ Potential buyers must register in advance for the three auctions. All offer ticketed admission to the saleroom, online bidding (BIDnow), absentee bidding or telephone bidding. Incidentally, the web catalogue contains much extra information about selected works, as well as condition reports for all.

➢ BBC arts editor Will Gompertz appraises David Bowie’s taste in art

➢ On video – Working with Bowie: an insight into an incredible mind, by his curators

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➤ A chapter of Bowie’s musical legacy best forgotten

David Bowie, Lazarus, msjuicals, Michael C Hall, Enda Walsh,

Click to enlarge: cinemascopic stage for Lazarus in New York with Michael C. Hall (left), Cristin Milioti and Michael Esper. (Photo Jan Versweyveld)

WHOEVER GULLED DAVID BOWIE into endorsing the inconsequential and tedious off-Broadway production of Lazarus which opened in London this week can never be forgiven. It is a disgrace on two levels: there’s not an ounce of theatre to this live “play” in which Bowie’s songs are the sole source of inspiration. And the theatre’s sightlines are atrocious.

The only merit in the entire performance comes from the live musicians. The actors have forgotten any training they had, merely meandering around the stage, sitting or lying on it, semaphoring superficially; the script, “a new story” written by Enda Walsh with Bowie, hasn’t the first idea about how to deliver their characters; and the plot moves no further than it was left in the book by Walter Tevis and the cult film on which Lazarus bases its existence, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), directed brilliantly by Nicolas Roeg and starring Bowie. In this musical claiming to be a “sequel”, after two mind-numbing hours nothing has been advanced for the immortal Earth-bound alien Thomas Newton who lives on gin and television.

Lazarus, Michael C Hall

Michael C Hall as Newton on the London stage

It creaks like a period piece of sci-fi by ignoring the major technologies that have transformed fiction no less than real-life during the past 40 years: the personal computer, the genome, the internet, artificial intelligence. This year’s TV drama The Night Manager, as an updating of John Le Carre’s 1993 novel, was infinitely more electrifying about the nowness of progress.

Nostalgia does find its place in the best new number Bowie wrote for Lazarus, Where Are We Now?, a deeply affecting tour of the melancholy old postwar Berlin which anybody who visited before the fall of the wall will never forget. Alas, here a culture gap yawns between the imaginative compass of music and the human efforts live onstage which all musical theatre must reconcile. Lazarus is a rock-world concept, bereft of dramatic chemistry, that relies on projected light to evoke the visual kaleidoscope of music videos, from which The Message is whatever key image the PR machine decides to promote. Theatre, it ain’t.

Worse, the biggest insult of all are the ticket prices in the 900-seat temporary installation calling itself the King’s Cross Theatre and being charged by Robert Fox and Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment. Quite apart from the external soundtrack from traffic and aircraft and railway activity, whoever designed this space and its sightlines has never sat in a theatre before.

From our so-called “TOP PRICE” * £65 tickets, situated about two-thirds of the way back, we never had a view of more than the top half of the wide cinemascopic stage. The angle of the raked auditorium was entirely to blame for placing at least six heads directly in front of each paying customer, and everybody else within range spent the duration bobbing their heads and weaving sideways to catch a glimpse of the stage and its often inanimate actors. The bigger disgrace is that other customers had been charged at “Premium” price levels from £160 downwards.

Frankly, I am convinced Bowie is turning in his grave at this presentation of his music.

* Surely a trades mis-description when there are THREE “Premium” price tiers above the so-called “Top Price”!

➢ Tickets still available for Lazarus which runs
until 22 Jan in London

13 NOV UPDATE: THE LONDON REVIEWS

➢ Michael Billington, the Guardian: “an exploration of the existential angst that pervades Bowie’s music: this is the story of a man never wholly at ease in himself or his surroundings. I found myself more impressed by the visual sophistication than emotionally engaged by the story.”

➢ Susannah Clapp, The Observer: “an extended pop video. Woozy and rapt. Long on style but short on wit.”

➢ David Jays, Sunday Times Culture: “an otherwordly muddle… Bowie devised a portentous scenario; Walsh keeps it dead on the page.”

➢ Roundup of reviews in The Stage: “Pretty much the entire world’s press turned out to review its London opening. And everyone disagrees.”

➢ Singer Andy Polaris experiences his own unsettling realisation during Lazarus the musical

David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicolas Roeg, films,

Bowie as Newton in the film TMWFTE, 1976: androgynous rock star as an alien visiting Earth from the planet Anthea

➢ David Bowie’s last three songs: decoding the final transmission – Dorian Lynskey at The Guardian

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: A sensational portrait of Bowie as the man who shaped our responses

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
“I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said

LAZARUS FROM BOWIE’S ALBUM BLACKSTAR

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2016 ➤ Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

Damien Hirst,David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: one of Damien Hirst’s first spin paintings from 1995 with a long-winded title, painted with household gloss. Sotheby’s est £250k-350k.

◼ WHAT A BRACING INSIGHT into David Bowie’s creative mind! Only 30 items are displayed in an exhibition of the musician’s art collection in London, yet, whether or not you share Bowie’s taste, his sharp eye for a strong image is indisputable.

This exquisite mini-show at the auctioneer Sotheby’s provides a taster for the sale of 400 items from Bowie’s collection in November. Sotheby’s chairman describes the musician’s taste as “eclectic, unscripted, understated” and there’s not a dud in sight. What is immediately evident is strong work by artists who changed the future, from an impertinent Marcel Duchamp readymade, through Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, Harold Gilman, Henry Moore, Peter Lanyon, Kenneth Armitage and Frank Auerbach. The core is clearly driven by Bowie’s love of 20th-century British art, with international detours to acknowledge Basquiat and others, plus dozens of items of 20th-century furniture.

Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector previews in London from 20 July to 9 August, then tours to LA, NYC, HK and returns to London in the autumn for a ten-day full exhibition from 1 November and an auction in three parts.

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The only thing I buy addictively is art
– David Bowie

A spokesman for Bowie’s estate said: “David’s art collection was fuelled by personal interest and compiled out of passion. He always sought and encouraged loans from the collection and enjoyed sharing the works in his custody. Though his family are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance, it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate – and acquire – the art and objects he so admired.”

➢ David Bowie’s personal art collection to feature in three sales – at Sotheby’s

➢ Works the late singer quietly collected over the years go on display – feature and gallery at the Guardian
The singer, who died in January, studied art and design at technical college and once confessed to buying art “obsessively and addictively”, but the scale of the addiction had not been realised. His family say they are selling because they have not got the space to keep the collection.

➢ Bowie’s Art and Furniture Collection – New York Times
“. . . his collection of modern and contemporary British art [includes] paintings by John Virtue, Stanley Spencer, Leon Kossoff and Patrick Caulfield, as well as work by contemporary African artists and pieces of outsider art. Mr Bowie also owned pieces by major international figures: Duchamp’s sculpture À bruit secret, two Hirst “spin” paintings and … a 1960s stereo cabinet by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.”

➢ Starman in the saleroom – Antiques Trade Gazette
The top lot is expected to be Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power, an acrylic and oilstick on canvas from 1984 that has an estimate of £2.5–3.5million. 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.

David Bowie, Sotheby’s, auction, art, furniture

In the Bowie/Collector sale: Italian Brionvega Radiophonograph (model RR 126) by the Castiglioni brothers from 1965. Sotheby’s estimate £800-1,200

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2016 ➤ Bid for your own rare photo of David Bowie

David Bowie , exhibition, auction, Labyrinth, Photography,Chalkie Davies

1985: Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth, photographed during filming by Chalkie Davies who says today that he “only shot this one single frame”

◼ FOR THE NEXT 12 DAYS in central London a free exhibition titled David Bowie: Fame, Fashion, Photography is showing previously unseen archive photographs of the pop icon who died in January. The event is organised by a supporter of Cancer Research UK and curated by the V&A, with the aim of raising money through a silent online auction of 27 lots, of which seven are actual-size contact sheets. All images are signed by their photographers – Chalkie Davies, Tony McGee and Denis O’Regan – who shared working relationships with our hero.

Three pictures in the room command serious attention: Davies’ stunning portrait of Bowie in the film Labyrinth has caught a unique sensual intensity, enhanced by the stylised goblin makeup. At 21 inches square, it is well worth the starting price of £2,500 set by the photographer. Another contribution by Davies groups within one frame nine strong images from Ziggy Stardust’s farewell concert in 1973 showing both Bowie and Mick Ronson live on-stage. Given that each shot measures roughly 10×14 inches, great value at a starting price of £3,000.

One of the largest photographs in the room is by Denis O’Regan: a potent live concert picture of the short-haired Bowie during his 1978 UK tour showcasing Low and “Heroes”. At six-foot square and mounted on aluminium, this black-and-white image is a snip at its £750 starting price.

David Bowie, Chalkie Davies, Tony McGee , Denis O’Regan photography , exhibition, auction, Cancer Research UK, Bidding in the auction continues online until the exhibition closes at 6:30pm on 19 June. While the lots have been framed and printed to museum quality, the auctioneer’s website proved confusing until it was pointed out that it failed both to identify the photographer alongside many photos and to specify what size of print a buyer would receive for opening bids that range between £350 and £3,000!

A limited-edition, numbered catalogue is on sale at the gallery which is in Heddon Street where Bowie was immortalised in 1972 on the album cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars. The exhibition space, donated by Regent Street and The Crown Estate, is described by Kevin Cann, author of the definitive guide to Bowie’s early life, Any Day Now, as “one of the natural gravitational points for many fans to pay their respect” after David’s passing.

David Bowie , exhibition, auction, Photography,Chalkie Davies, Denis O’Regan, Ziggy Stardust

Bowie, Fame, Fashion, Photography at The Hub: at left, Denis O’Regan’s wall of images with his 1978 performance picture at centre. On the far wall is Chalkie Davies’s montage of nine Ziggy Stardust stage images from 1973

➢ The exhibition Bowie, Fame, Fashion, Photography runs 7–19 June at The Hub, 10 Heddon Street, W1B 4BX and is free, but a timed-admission ticket is required by registering online at Eventbrite. What a palaver! 7 June update: Just after midday on the show’s first day there were 17 visitors in the gallery. Ten minutes later there were only five.

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➤ A sensational portrait of Bowie as the man who shaped our responses to an age of shattered dreams

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1970s, Space Oddity, music videos, Apollo 11,

1969: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom / You’ve really made the grade / And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear”

➢ Today’s issue of The Economist pulls out the plum – a superb obituary casting David Bowie as a wonderful epitome of alienation who saw a way through the world’s fears of imminent annihilation:

IN JULY 1969 men walked on the moon, a technological leap all but unthinkable 50 years before. Three years later they abandoned it, and have renounced all return ever since. What boosters saw as the great opening act of the space age turned out to be, in effect, its culmination. Within a few years presidential corruption, economic stagnation, military ignominy and imagined catastrophe had warped post-war America’s previously impervious belief in progress, a belief that had resonance across the then free world. After Apollo, the future would never again be what it used to be.

The Economist, Space Oddity, David Bowie,tributes, David Bowie’s greatest years began nine days before Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquillity, with the release of his single Space Oddity; they ended 11 years later, with the single Ashes to Ashes. Over that decade he used imagined futures to turn himself into something contradictory and wonderful — an epitome of alienation with whom the alienated flocked to identify. In doing so, he laid bare one of the key cultural shifts of the 1970s: the giving up of past dreams. . . / Continued online

“In Space Oddity Major Tom, floating in a most peculiar way, had been an isolated spaceman;
by Ashes to Ashes his isolation was a junkie’s”
– The Economist

David Bowie, genius, pop music, obituary, Major Tom, The Economist, alienation, annihilation, 1980s, Ashes to Ashes, music videos,

1980: “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky / We know Major Tom’s a junkie / Strung out in heaven’s high / Hitting an all-time low”

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

OVER TO YOU, MAJOR TIM:

➢ Update on the first Friday of the new era AD (After David), Britain’s first official astronaut Major Tim Peake takes his first walk outside the International Space Station

International Space Station, ESA, NASA, British, astronaut,Union Jack,

2016: The British astronaut Major Tim Peake – sporting the Union Jack on his shoulder – takes his first spacewalk at 2pm today from the International Space Station (via NASA Television)

NOT FORGETTING COMMANDER CHRIS HADFIELD


❏ This is the cover version Bowie called “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created”, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station in 2013.

Today’s hits on mainstream media!

➢ Tim Peake on live NASA Television

➢ David Bowie Breaks Adele’s Vevo record

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