All rise and no fall at Ziggy Stardust art auction

Artworks from the private collection of the late musician David Bowie sold for £24.3 million (including buyer’s premium) at auction in London on Thursday, smashing their pre-sale estimate.

The first of the three-part sale “Bowie/Collector” at Sotheby’s opened with a selection of forty-seven works of Modern and Contemporary art, which had been expected to fetch £11.7 million. Not only did the evening attract the highest ever number of registered bidders at Sotheby’s for a London evening auction (720) but it also heralded a new record for a British artist at auction. Frank Auerbach’s ‘Head of Gerda Boehm’ (1965) sold for £3.8 million, seven times its high pre-sale estimate. According to the Sotheby’s catalogue, Bowie was said to have commented in relation to the painting: “My god, yeah! I want to sound like that looks”. The top lot of the evening was an acrylic and oilstick on canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat entitled ‘Air Power’. Four bidders pushed the sale price up to £7.1 million.  

A further 308 works from the Bowie collection went under the hammer on Friday (11 November). On offer were more works by the titans of British 20th century art as well as German Expressionist prints, Picasso ceramics, a Surrealist chess set by Man Ray and a Renaissance altarpiece by Tintoretto. Oliver Barker, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, noted that the “Bowie/Collector” sales had defied the impact of any market fall-out in the wake of the US presidential election.  “Given what the world has gone through in the last 48 hours, this was a huge boost of confidence,” Barker said.

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