David Bowie Paintings
A Soulful Art Legacy: 25 Artworks made by David Bowie
Just like many others around the globe, I was saddened by the departure of a great artist of our age – David Bowie. I have to admit, though, my sadness is somehow selfish. I knew that it wouldn’t be long until my turn facing the end of this life, just like my favourite artist who sang me these songs that I grew up listening to. However, there are some artists behind the mask of sadness, are simply prompted to promote their freshly-made paintings and prints, to profit from shocked fans who want to pay tribute to their hero. On that very same day!
David Bowie’s own art
So, instead of sharing arts made on the death of David Bowie, here I would like to share some of his very own artwork. Let’s pay real tribute to him by celebrating his creativity! David Bowie’s paintings show a knowledgeable approach to art, influenced by Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Francis Bacon, Francis Picabia…
In spring 1976, he and Iggy Pop left America ‘and moved to Berlin. They were fleeing the artistic cannibalism of Los Angeles. Berlin gave him access to a new life and new inspirations. And not just about music: Bowie, whose affinity for German Expressionist art far pre-dated his residence in Berlin, executed then a great number of lithographs and many portrait paintings. It had a great influence on his songwriting. He clearly isn’t a master and there is a technical lack of practice to be seen, but there is also passion and great sensitivity.
“You aren’t dead as long as somebody is thinking about you.” Bertolt Brecht
Squeeze – 1996
Bowie painted these DHeads during his career, but it only went public around 1994. This series has approximately 47 works. He painted friends, family and other musicians for the DHead series, even some self-portraits, but he didn’t identify his subjects. We know for sure the one below is a portrait of Mike Garson.
Bowie’s original art value
An update to talk about the estimated value of his artworks. In 1998, Bowie donated a DHead painting, self-portrait in this case, to the fundraising ARTAID in Edinburgh.
In 2016 an anonymous fan (a film producer) of David Bowie paid £22,500 for it at auction (around 28k $ or 25k €). The estimated value and bid was £3,000-£5,000.
DHead XLVI (46)
Just this hour, June 24 2021, a painting was expected to fetch an estimated $9000 to 12000 USD was sold on the online art auctioneer Cowley Abbot. Price was finally realized at $108120 USD on this page (photos from Cowley Abbot Fine Art).
It was found at a donation center at a landfill in South River, north of Toronto. The anonymous seller paid $5 Canadian for the painting in summer 2020.
Andy Peters, who’s been collecting Bowie autographs since 1978, and shared it on his website since 1978 has been contacted by CNN and authenticated the signature.
Two strange elements yet can be seen:
- The Series number was originally XXXXVI, which is, well, 46 too. It is probably indicating that perhaps David Bowie didn’t know or didn’t want to bother about Roman numerals.
- It is mentioned “Computer collage” in the painting technique and there is clearly no collage.
I don’t imply that there is any doubt about the provenance. I just think it is a sign that Bowie didn’t care about any commercial value or business related to his visual expression.
South African series
An exploration of Bowie’s thoughts on the “white ancestor” story, gleaned from his trip to South Africa. The artist’s quote:
“In 1995 Iman and I took our first trip to South Africa. One of the prevailing stories handed down is that when the first tribes saw the white man they presumed they were being visited by their ancestors, as in their mythology the ancestors appear as a ghost-like white form.”
Major Arcana cards series
Five silkscreens after the tarot made by David Bowie made this series inspired by the five major tarot cards, in Los Angeles, November 1975.
The first edition of 50 was only gifted to his family and friends (And today some of them are presented by the Masterpiece Gallery in London). Then in the 90s’, a new release of smaller size and a larger edition (how many?) was made available to the public.
Representations of the Major Arcana
- “Lovers”, the 22 trump cards,
- “Death”, the 6th trump card,
- “Star” the 13th trump card,
- “Moon” the 18th,
- “Earth” the 21st.
We can easily draw a parallel between the artworks and Bowie’s career phases. Lovers, Death, Star, Moon, Earth as displayed but shuffling them up as Earth, Star, Lovers, Moon and inevitably death and realizing the combinations are endless.
Painted in 1977, the portrait is displayed in his bedroom in Berlin (8 Feb 1978). It was exhibited at the “David Bowie Is” exhibition in 2014 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin. And at the “David Bowie Retrospective Exhibition” held at Tennōzu Isle (Japan) in 2017.