This genuine personal interest in the arts manifested in a collection that reflects Bowie’s interests, not just those of the market. “He could have gone out and bought a
. He could have gotten art advisors to go out and cherry-pick for him. But he didn’t,” Hucker says. Instead, “he read, he researched, he did it all himself. He talked to dealers and people he would chat about art with but he very much taught himself to look and trusted his own judgement. He was very interested in finding things that were a bit out of the way.” Known for charting his own path through the music industry, Bowie also looked to collect artists who operated beyond the mainstream conventions of the art world. “You can see [collecting] Basquiat as part of that,” says Hucker, along with pieces created by the so-called “outsider” artists who practiced art therapy at the Gugging Institute in Vienna.
Bowie lived in New York from 1993 until his death but, upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2014, he paid one last visit to London. The numerous 20th-century British artists in his collection suggest his home was never far from his thoughts—or his music. “My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks,” Bowie said of Auerbach, whose Head of Gerda Boehm (1965) is estimated at £300,000–500,000. Auerbach fans may recognize the work from a 2001 Royal Academy retrospective of the artist, to which Bowie lent the piece anonymously.
But even when collecting works by artists from his homeland, Bowie looked for the unexpected. “He liked the idea of artists who were participating in wider international movements but gave them a particularly British twist,” says Hucker. Though the Bowie family “are keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance,” according to a spokesman for the estate, “it is now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate—and acquire—the art and objects he so admired.” If one wants to know exactly how art influenced Bowie, it’s best to listen to the man himself: “It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it,” he said in the past. “It can change the way that I feel in the mornings. The same work can change me in different ways, depending on what I’m going through.”