Toronto-based auction house Cowley Abbott opened an online auction this week featuring works by artists from different countries. One of the pieces has attracted special attention for two reasons: It was made by David Bowie in 1997 and found last year in a thrift store. “The chance discovery of this treasure within a pile of discarded items is extremely remarkable,” the Cowley Abbott house said in a statement.
David Robert Jones (1947-2016), real name of the British musician, showed his talent in other disciplines such as film and fashion; also in plastic. Bowie studied art and design as a teenager, distinguished himself as a collector and served on the editorial committee of the magazine Modern Painters. He started painting in 1976 (when he settled in Berlin) and renewed his interest in brushes, palettes and colors in the 1990s. The 24×19-centimeter piece offered by Cowley Abbott belongs to this last period. Some critics have pointed out the influence of German Expressionism and Francis Bacon on Bowie’s plastic production.
According to the auction house, a person (who prefers to remain anonymous) acquired the painting last summer in South River, a town located about 300 kilometers from Toronto. He paid five Canadian dollars (four US dollars) for the work, at a charity thrift store. The buyer noticed a David Bowie name tag along with other details, as well as a signature, on the back. After some research on the internet, he decided to contact Cowley Abbott in November.
The auction house experts realized that the painting – a collage of computer images and acrylic on canvas – it was very similar to several portraits made by David Bowie in the 1990s. They enlisted the services of Andy Peters, a specialist in Bowie’s signature and his plastic work. Peters confirmed the authenticity of the work. The title of the piece is D Head XLVI, which is part of a series of approximately 47 portraits made by the British between 1995 and 1997. Bowie painted in this series several members of his band, friends and acquaintances, in addition to making some self-portraits. However, Cowley Abbott noted that the identity of the model D Head XLVI –Work dated 1997- has not been established.
Lydia Abbott, vice president of the auction company, comments: “We know that the painting was sold in 2001 or 2002 through a David Bowie website run by his art curator and where other of his pieces were sold. 2,300 pounds sterling was paid for the work ”. However, he says that it is still a mystery how it got to the Canadian store. Abbott says this is not the first time his company has sold such a find: “In 2016, a person bought a watercolor by Polish-Canadian artist John Kasyn for $ 10 at another Toronto second-hand store. It sold for $ 2,640 at an auction we organized, ”he explains.
In the case of Bowie’s work, the hammer – virtual – will sound on June 24 at 2:15 p.m. local time in Toronto. Before starting the auction, the experts pointed out that D Head XLVI it could be worth between 9,000 and 12,000 Canadian dollars (7,300 and 9,800 US dollars). However, the most recent bid is over 38,000 (US $ 31,000).
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