Mystery Irish buyer ‘thrilled’ with David Bowie’s art auction

Singer’s entire collection is sold, including pieces by Jack B Yeats and Louis le Brocquy

The auction of David Bowie’s private art collection at Sotheby’s in London last week turned out to be an unqualified success and was a “white glove” sale – meaning that 100 per cent of the lots sold.

The auction of the 356 lots lasted a marathon 12 hours, spread over three sessions, and realised over £32 million (almost three times the estimate) – established new record prices for various modern British artists including Frank Auerbach and the late Ivon Hitchens.

Overall, the top lot was Air Power by Jean-Michel Basquiat – the New York graffiti artist who died in 1988 – which sold for £7.1 million, over double the top estimate of £3.5 million.

Bowie had reputedly paid only $130,000 for the painting in the 1990s. Bowie, who died earlier this year, was a well-known art collector, mainly of modern and contemporary British and American art.


But the auction also revealed that he had owned some pieces of Irish art which were also sold, including Sleep Sound by Jack B Yeats, which he had bought anonymously at Sotheby's in 1993 for £45,500, which made £233,000 (comfortably above the estimate of £120,000-£180,000); and, a watercolour titled James Joyce by Louis le Brocquy, dated 1981, which made £68,750 – over four times the top estimate (£10,000-£15,000).


In both cases, the buyers have remained anonymous and Sotheby’s was unable to say if either picture was bought by an Irish buyer.

Dublin art auctioneer Rory Guthrie, of de Veres Art Auctions on Kildare Street, attended the auction on behalf of an unnamed private Irish collector "who was interested in five lots" – although not the Irish paintings – and bid successfully on two for his client who was "thrilled".

Mr Guthrie, who described the auction in the packed New Bond Street saleroom, which was “pumping Bowie music” before bidding began, as “great theatre” but would not reveal which lots his client had acquired.

The auction attracted huge interest.

Sotheby’s said the viewings had attracted more than 55,550 visitors worldwide and the auction had attracted more than 1,750 bidders to the saleroom.

The auction also provided evidence of the growing power of the internet in art sales.

Sotheby’s said that while 20,000 copies of the print catalogue had been distributed, its e-catalogues had been visited 156,000 times; the lots had been viewed online 634,000 times; and more than 1,000 bidders had registered online.

Note: Prices supplied by the London sale rooms include the buyer’s premium