“If you come from art, you’ll always be art” – David Bowie
Attracting attention from collectors around the globe, David Bowie’s DHead XLVI fetched $108,120 CAD during the Cowley Abbott Spring International Art Auction, which closed on Thursday, June 24th. The small portrait, which was purchased at a donation centre in Northern Ontario for $5, drew bids from clients located across Canada and well beyond our borders, finally selling for almost ten times the pre-sale auction estimate of $9,000-12,000, establishing a new global auction record for an artwork by David Bowie.
David Robert Jones, known more commonly as David Bowie, was an icon of the music industry and of twentieth century pop culture. Like many musicians, Bowie studied art and design as a young man, which would foster a love of fine art throughout his lifetime. He was also a passionate collector and painter, heavily influenced by the modernist art trends of the twentieth century; his paintings possess the stylistic influences of the German expressionists, Francis Bacon and the London School of painters. Bowie’s own work rarely appears at auction, so when Cowley Abbott was contacted about a painting entitled D Head XLVI, there was a cautious excitement.
D Head XLVI was found in the most unexpected place: a donation centre for household goods in South River, Ontario. The chance discovery of this treasure within a pile of discarded goods is quite remarkable. The consignor of the painting was astonished upon viewing a label which read “David Bowie” and realizing it was the signature of the artist inscribed on the reverse. After conducting thorough research, which included correspondence with a David Bowie specialist in the United Kingdom, we were able to confirm that the painting is indeed by the famous artist and part of a series that he completed in the 1990s.
Between 1995 and 1997 Bowie created a series of approximately forty-seven works on canvas which he entitled Dead Heads (or D Head). Each title included a non-sequential Roman numeral. The sitters ranged from band members, friends and acquaintances and there were also some self-portraits. It has been suggested that, for some of these important paintings, Bowie drew inspiration from the Ziggy Stardust era. With long hair and a pronounced profile, this energetic and enigmatic portrait is truly a rare representation from a celebrated artist (we can attempt to surmise who the sitter is, however, unfortunately the label does not confirm their identity.)
Cowley Abbott was pleased to be entrusted with such an exciting artwork and delighted to share the painting and its story with collectors in the weeks leading to the auction. The story was carried by media outlets around the world, our firm’s excitement matched by Bowie fans and art collectors globally.