Iconic British musician David Bowie, who passed away earlier this year, said art could change the way he felt in the mornings. His private collection will be on show in London this November, prior to a major Sotheby’s auction

For almost half a century, David Bowie stood peerless as a style influencer, musician and sometimes actor. However, his life as an art collector was something he chose to keep almost entirely hidden from the public gaze. Now, as a preamble to a major 10-day exhibition and auction at Sotheby’s in London this November, this little-known side of Bowie is revealed.

Bowie’s engagement with the art world cannot be over-emphasised. With London — and Modern British art — at the heart of his passion, he was an artist, critic, patron, publisher, curator and magazine editor.

Sotheby’s exhibition and sale, a three-part event that includes around 400 pieces from the private collection of David Bowie, will have at its heart over 200 works by many of the most important British 20th century artists, including Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Frank Auerbach and Damien Hirst.

This is a collection created with great thoughtfulness, based not on artist reputation, but rather on Bowie’s highly personal intellectual response to each artist’s vision.

Bowie on jean-michel basquiat: “I feel the very moment of his brush or crayon touching the canvas. There is a burning immediacy to his ever-evaporating decisions that fires the imagination ten or 15 years on, as freshly molten as the day they were poured onto the canvas”
David Bowie on Basquiat, quoted in Modern Painters, 1996.

Bowie on art: “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”
David Bowie, quoted in The New York Times, 1998.

by Simon Balsom

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 90-95.