Walking around Sotheby’s exhibition of David Bowie’s private art collection was a strange experience. Taking in Basquiat’s Air Power, Peter Lanyon’s Witness and Maurice Cockrill’s meditations on blue, surrounded by an eclectic assortment of colourful lamps, rugs and ceramics, all while “Sound and Vision” plays, was surprisingly moving. So, too, was exploring what Bowie’s curator Beth Greenacre called “the beautiful networks between the works within his collection.” But for an inexperienced art buyer like myself, whose only flirtation with art collecting is trying not to spend £4.50 on postcards at the end of exhibitions, it was at times a jarring one.
“How much is that one?” I heard a glamorous-looking person ask her partner. “Between five and seven,” he replied casually. Reader, they were not talking in hundreds or thousands of pounds – but hundreds of thousands. I couldn’t shift the awkward feeling that art so highly valued (and therefore, one would hope, holding high cultural significance) belongs in a public gallery, not a rich person’s home. And if that is the case, isn’t it a shame that they’ll be separated and sold off to the highest bidder? But, then again, if private art collecting wasn’t a thing, this collection couldn’t exist.
After taking my time with the more interesting pieces and arguing pointlessly with myself about the tensions between art and capitalism, I set myself a challenge. Which pieces here could a normal human being possibly own? Sotheby’s staff told me that the “more affordable” pieces will probably go for more than their estimated prices, but a gal’s gotta dream. Here are the Bowie-owned items likely to sell for the lowest costs at auction.
The design pieces are, understandably, cheaper than the art – so look here first.
“Squash” Ashtray by Maria Sanchez is estimated to sell for £60-80. Your fag ash could be where Bowie’s fag ash (maybe) was.
“Carrot” vase by Nathalie Du Pasquier, a founding member of the Memphis group, is estimated to sell for £80-100. What better way to celebrate one of the best-known carrot-tops in town.
“Brocolli” fruit bowl, by another Memphis artist, Marco Zanini, is estimated to sell for £100-£150. In fact, ceramics are your best bet on a low budget.
The adorable “cube” radio, designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper, is estimated to sell for £150-£250.
This set of ten “pepper” coffee cups are estimated to sell for between £200 and £300.
“Enorme” telephone by Ettore Sottsass (Bowie owned a lot of pieces by the Italian architect and designer) should sell for around £200 or £300.
This sexy “Valentine” portable typewriter is a collaboration between Sottsass and Perry King, estimated to go for £300-£500.
The giraffe-like “Oceanic” lamp by Michele de Lucchi should sell for £400-£600.
None of these are going to cost much less than your rent, I’m afraid.
Erich Heckel’s Die Brüder Karamasow takes its title from Dostoyevsky’s final novel, and is estimated at £300-500.
David’ Bromley’s 1960 screenprint, Afternoon Tea Boy, is estimated at £300-£500.
Pietro Annigoni’s 1963 Portrait of a Man is also estimated at £300-£500.
Dick Chappell’s moody Under a Full Moon is estimated at £400-600.
St Ives school artist Alexander Mackenzie’s August 1965 is estimated at £500-800.
This metal mask – António Ole’s Untitled (Mask), is estimated at £500-700.
I love Maurice Cockrill’s First Blue – estimated to go for somewhere between £600 and £800.
But my favourite (cough) “affordable” piece might just be Teenagers, by Sven Berlin (another St Ives artist). It’s also estimated at £600-£800.
All images via Sotheby’s.