Bowie's art collection makes millions at London auction

A view of the auction hall during the Bowie/Collector sale at Sotheby's auction house in London, Britain, on Nov 10, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Lights are dimmed ahead of the Bowie/Collector auction, a sale of David Bowie's private art collection. PHOTO: REUTERS
Jean-Michel Basquiat's Air Power, owned by the late David Bowie, is sold for £6,200,000 at the Bowie/Collector auction. PHOTO: REUTERS
An auctioneer conducting the sale of Frank Auerbach's Head Of Gerda Boehm at the Bowie/Collector auction. PHOTO: REUTERS
An untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, owned by the late David Bowie, is sold for £2,000,000 at the Bowie/Collector auction. PHOTO: REUTERS
A telephone bid is placed during a sale at the Bowie/Collector auction.

LONDON (AFP) - David Bowie's art collection went under the hammer on Thursday with one item reaching more than £7 million (S$12.4 million) at auction, as buyers' enthusiasm for the late musician's collection exceed expectations in London.

The highest-selling item in Bowie's collection, the graffiti-inspired Air Power canvas by Basquiat, sold for £7.09 million at Sotheby's auction house. The piece had been expected to fetch between £2.5 and £3.5 million.

Bowie bought Air Power and another painting by the artist, who died from an overdose in 1988 aged 27, shortly before the 1996 biopic Basquiat, in which the rocker played his early idol Andy Warhol.

The canvas was one of 47 art works in Bowie's collection auctioned off on Thursday, the majority of which are modern British artworks, selling for a total £24.3 million. The proceeds will go to Bowie's estate, which together with Sotheby's spent several months putting the auction together, a spokeswoman for the auction house told AFP.

A further 300 more works owned by the rock legend, who died in January from an undisclosed battle with cancer, are due to go under the hammer on Friday.

Three works by Damien Hirst were also sold on Thursday, including a collaborative work with Bowie which went for £785,000. The painting is titled Beautiful, Hallo Space-Boy, an allusion to Bowie's recurring musical character of Major Tom, the astronaut explorer.

Another work by modernist Basquiat, Untitled, sold for £2.4 million, well above the estimate of £500,000 to £700,000.

The second-highest sale was for the 1965 oil painting Head Of Gerda Boehm by Frank Auerbach, which was bought for £3.8 million after a pre-auction estimate of £300,000 to £500,000.

Bowie spoke of his admiration for Auerbach during a 1998 interview with the New York Times: "I think there are some mornings that if we hit each other a certain way - myself and a portrait by Auerbach - the work can magnify the kind of depression I'm going through. It will give spiritual weight to my angst."

The musician was an avid art collector and used to go to auctions, before buying more discreetly. He also served on the editorial board of the magazine Modern Painters during the 1990s.

Speaking ahead of the auction, Sotheby's senior specialist in modern and post-war British art, Simon Hucker, said: "He would interview artists that he thought were good, but on the whole he was very private about his art collecting."

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