Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Take a Peek at David Bowie's Idiosyncratic Art Collection

Art World

Take a Peek at David Bowie's Idiosyncratic Art Collection

David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, (1987). Photo: Denis O'Regan/Getty Images.
David Bowie at the Berlin Wall, (1987). Photo: Denis O'Regan/Getty Images.
"Art was, seriously, the only thing I'd ever wanted to own," legendary musician David Bowie, who died on Sunday, January 10 at age 69, told the New York Times in 1998. "It can change the way that I feel in the mornings."
He went on to espouse his admiration for Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, and Francis Picabia, and his appreciation of Marcel Duchamp's sense of humor—although Bowie allowed that "there's the other side of me that thinks he did it just because he couldn't paint."
This love of art manifested itself in the music: As early as 1969, Bowie referenced Georges Braque in the lyrics of "Unwashed and Slightly Dazed." "Joe the Lion," released in 1977, pays tribute to a Chris Burden performance art piece with the line "nail me to my car and I'll tell you who you are." In 1974, Bowie based the set design for his Diamond Dogs tour in part on the work of satirical German artist George Grosz.
The set design model for David Bowie's <em>Diamond Dogs</em> tour. Photo: courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The set design model for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour.
Photo: courtesy the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Bowie's well-known love of fine art, however, has led to some exaggeration about the scope and breadth of his holdings. "Last week I was approached by a magazine about doing an interview on my 'Surrealist and PreRaphaelite' collection," said Bowie in 2003, as recounted by Nicholas Pegg's The Complete David Bowie (2011). "This was news to me."
"Yes, I do have a (too frequently remarked upon) Tintoretto and a small Rubens… but the majority of what I have are British 20th century and not terribly big names," Bowie insisted. "I've gone for what seemed to be an important or interesting departure at a certain time, or something that typified a certain decade, rather than go for Hockneys or Freuds or whatever."
His favorite Brits included Graham Sutherland, William Tillier, Leon Kossoff, and Stanley SpencerGavin Turk and Gilbert & George are also said to have featured in his collection.
Paul McCartney, <em>Bowie Spewing</em> (1990). Photo: Paul McCartney.
Paul McCartney, Bowie Spewing (1990).
Photo: Paul McCartney.
Bowie was also something of an artistic muse himself. When Paul McCartney checked to see if the musician he minded the title of his 1990 canvas Bowie Spewing, Bowie said "Of course not, but what a coincidence, I am currently working on a song that's called 'McCartney Shits,'" he told Belgium's Humo magazine.
One unifying thread among Bowie's best-loved artists is a willingness to take risks. "From a very early age I was always fascinated by those who transgressed the norm, who defied convention, whether in painting or in music or anything," Bowie told Life magazine in 1992. "Those were my heroes," he added, listing Duchamp and Salvador Dalí along with Little Richard and John Lennon.
In addition to his proclivities as a collector, Bowie was a painter himself (he even attended art school), as well as a writer for Modern Painters. His life and career was the subject of the wildly-popular exhibition "Davie Bowie is," which debuted at London's  Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013 before traveling to Berlin, Chicago, and Paris, among other cities.
Roxanne Lowit, David Bowie, Damien Hirst, and Julian Schnabel (1994). Photo: Roxanne Lowit, courtesy Kaune, Sudendorg Gallery, Cologne.
Roxanne Lowit, David Bowie, Damien Hirst, and Julian Schnabel (1994).
Photo: Roxanne Lowit, courtesy Kaune, Sudendorg Gallery, Cologne.
Despite the vitriol all too often aimed at celebrities who dare to branch out into the visual arts (admittedly often for good reason—hello James Franco), Bowie refused to be pigeonholed. "I'm determined that if I want to paint, do installations or design costumes, I'll do it," he told the Telegraph in 1996.
As Camille Paglia wrote of Bowie in the "Theater of Gender," her essay for the V&A exhibition catalogue, David Bowie Is…, "Music was not the only or even the primary mode through which he first conveyed his vision to the world: he was an iconoclast who was also an image-maker."
Here are some of the artworks reportedly owned by the visionary artist:
David Bowie, <em>Inshore Fishing</em> (1952). Photo: courtesy the David Bowie collection.
Peter Lanyon, Inshore Fishing (1952).
Photo: courtesy the David Bowie collection.
Peter Lanyon, Inshore Fishing (1952)
Bowie lent no less than three canvases to abstract expressionist Peter Lanyon's 2010 retrospective at Tate St. Ives. 21 Publishing, Bowie's art publishing press, had previously released Peter Lanyon: At the Edge of Landscape in 2000.
Damien Hirst, <em>Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting</em> (1995). Photo: courtesy of White Cube © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012.
Damien Hirst, Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting (1995).
Photo: courtesy of White Cube © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2012.
Damien Hirst, Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting (1995)
"My idea of a contemporary artist is Damien Hirst," Bowie once said.
The two artists ultimately became friends, and Bowie even teamed up with Hirst on one of the his infamous spin paintings, titled Beautiful Hallo Space-boy Painting.
Bowie bought one of Hirst's solo efforts, Beautiful, shattering, slashing, violent, pinky, hacking, sphincter painting
David Bowie with Peter Howson's <em>Croatian and Muslim</em> (1994). Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features.
David Bowie with Peter Howson's Croatian and Muslim (1994).
Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features.
Peter Howson, Croatian and Muslim (1994)
In 1994, Bowie snapped up Scottish artist Peter Howson's Croatian and Muslim after London's Imperial War Museum, which commissioned the work, opted not to buy it due to its brutal subject matter (two men raping a Muslim woman and forcing her head in the toilet).
"Howson's Croatian and Muslim shows what is actually happening and being done in Bosnia," Imperial War Museum curator Angela Weight, who voted in favor of the painting but was overruled, told the Chicago Tribune. "Museums have to take bold decisions and should not go for conservatism."
David Bowie with Peter Howson's <em>Croatian and Muslim</em> (1994). Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features.
David Bowie with Peter Howson's Croatian and Muslim (1994).
Photograph: Richard Young/Rex Features.
Howson, the UK's official war artist at the time, created about 200 paintings and drawings during a trip to war-torn Bosnia that left him shell-shocked. Bowie purchased the painting, which was shown at the museum in an exhibition of Howson's works documenting the crisis, for £18,000 ($27,000). The singer described it as "the most evocative and devastating painting," the New York Times reported.
William Nicholson, <em>Andalucian Homestead</em> (1935). Photo: courtesy the David Bowie collection.
William Nicholson, Andalucian Homestead (1935).
Photo: courtesy the David Bowie collection.
William NicholsonAndalucian Homestead (1935)
Bowie has lent out this sun-splashed landscape painting at least twice in the past decade. The oil painting was among 35 works by the artist that appeared at London's Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert gallery in 2011, and previously crossed the Atlantic in 2006 for the artist's first American show in 80 years, held at New York's Paul Kasmin gallery.
Erich Heckel, <em>Roquairol</em> (1917). Photo: via Wikimedia Commons.
Erich Heckel, Roquairol (1917).
Photo: via Wikimedia Commons.
Erich Heckel, Roquairol (1917)
Bowie is also reportedly a collector of German Expressionist works, and has named himself a fan of the Die Brücke group and Fritz Lang. While artnet News wasn't able to track down any specific works from that movement in Bowie's collection, it's worth noting that the cover of his 1977 album Heroes is inspired by Erich Heckel's Roquairol.
David Bowie, <em>Heroes</em> album cover from graphic artist Masayoshi Sukita. Photo: RCA.
David Bowie, Heroes album cover from graphic artist Masayoshi Sukita.
Photo: RCA.
"Heckel's Roquairol and also his print from 1910 or thereabouts called Young Man was a major influence on me as a painter," Bowie told Uncut magazine in 1999. He also denied rumors that the photograph was based on a Walter Gramatté self-portrait, adding, "I personally couldn't stand Gramatté. He was wishy washy in my opinion."
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‘I’m Glad I’m Me Now!’ On the Peculiar Brilliance of ‘Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie’



‘I’m Glad I’m Me Now!’ On the Peculiar Brilliance of ‘Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie’

David Bowie in Cracked Actor.
David Bowie in Cracked Actor.
I think one of the stranger moments in the history of documentary filmmaking—if not filmmaking generally—is from a 1974 BBC documentary called Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie. The movie, not unlike Bowie’s best albums, is more like a montage of short scenes, loosely connected by the persona at the center. About five minutes into the film, Bowie can be seen in the daylight for the first and—besides one brief scene that picks up where this one left off at the film’s midpoint—last time in the documentary’s 53 minutes. The sun’s rays seep into the back of a limousine, where Bowie sits, in a black, long-sleeved shirt that does not cover his bellybutton, and a large black hat that covers his face in shadow. The strangest thing is not the sunlight, which is hardly Bowie’s natural environment, particularly in the mid-’70s, or the fact that he’s harmonizing with Aretha Franklin, who is heard singing “Natural Woman” on the car’s radio, in between giant gulps of 2 percent milk taken direct from the carton. No, the strange thing is that David Bowie, The Man Who Fell To Earth himself, smiling big and driving through the California desert, very briefly seems like he was actually born on this planet. That smile! How tragically human!
Then the moment passes.
“Since you’ve been in America, you seem to have picked up on a lot of the idioms and themes of American music, and American culture,” an interviewer, sitting in the car with him, says. “How does that happen?”
“There’s a fly floating around in my milk!” Bowie responds. “There’s a foreign body in it, you see, and he’s getting a lot of milk.” He pauses to laugh menacingly. “That’s kind of how I feel.”
He turns to look out the window, cutting himself off. “A wax museum!” he says. “A bleeding wax museum in the middle of the desert! You’d think it would melt, wouldn’t you?”
When Bowie died of cancer on Sunday, at the age of 69, enough people thought it was a hoax that his publicist had to reconfirm the news. Point being: how could someone so much larger than life finally succumb to it? (On the morning after he died, I wrote to a friend expressing disbelief. “He’s not dead,” the friend wrote back, “just pulling into the next station.”) Cracked Actor finds Bowie in the aftermath of a different death—that of his persona Ziggy Stardust, an exaggerated stand-in for Bowie himself, whose burnout was foretold as early as 1972. (The song “Ziggy Stardust,” Bowie’s biographical sketch on the character, is tellingly written in the past tense.) Bowie officially killed off the character at the Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973, after which the artist came to America and, as Cracked Actor’s narrator states, “buried Ziggy somewhere between New York and Hollywood.”
On the subsequent tour documented throughout the course of the film, Bowie transitions from the hard rock of Ziggy to the R&B of the forthcoming Young Americans (1975), becoming more and more baroque while his music melts into an oddly earnest—if only slightly alien—tribute to the American songbook. By this time, he’s wholly uninterested in “Space Oddity,” his first hit, released only five years earlier. Footage shows him playing the song seated in a chair, his face expressionless, singing placidly into a red phone. His performance of the more recent “Sweet Things,” however, sounds like Gershwin and looks like something you’d see at a Chippendale’s revue. The title song, performed at a Los Angeles concert, is like 3+3-era Isley Brothers scoring a Brecht play. Bowie is wearing a Hamlet cloak over a suit that can only be described as proto–David Byrne, singing to a skull while performers around him hold flood lights and cameras, illuminating him, but also getting in the way, a sarcastic dig at Bowie’s still fairly new post-Ziggy fame. He proceeds to kiss the skull aggressively.
Cut to Bowie in the back of his limo again, driving through an apocalyptic L.A. A billboard for Kent cigarettes looms ominously, and a dog ambles across a major boulevard. It’s dark out, and a police siren is going off. Bowie looks around anxiously, his face registering the kind of paranoia reserved only for the most famous cocaine addiction since Sigmund Freud. “Are we not stopped?” he says, terrified. “Is there anything behind us?” Then, in one of the film’s more significant small gestures, Bowie sniffs.
“There’s an underlying unease here,” he says. “Definitely. You can feel it in every avenue. It’s very calm, and it’s a kind of superficial calmness that they’ve developed to underplay the fact that there’s a lot of high pressure here. It’s a very big entertainment industry area.”
I like everything about this quote. For Bowie to say that a police siren in L.A. freaked him out only because the city is “a very big entertainment industry area” has to be one of the most dissociative moments of the 20th century. Bowie was, of course, famous for his evasiveness in interviews. A particularly condescending American interviewer asks Bowie at the beginning of the film if he “gets tired of being outrageous.” Bowie doesn’t care for this description. The interviewer asks him what adjective he would use to describe himself. “David Bowie,” Bowie responds. But there are moments in Cracked Actor when he seems to really be grasping at clarity with the BBC. He occasionally succeeds: at one point, he discusses some of his mediocre earlier albums as mere attempts at coping with fame, which itself he compares to “a car…accelerating very, very fast, and you’re not driving.” But for the most part, when Bowie is on camera, he talks about himself as if he’s not in the room.
This is to say nothing of his freaky fans, interviewed outside of one of Bowie’s shows. One of the finest depictions of star worship comes when a rigid BBC crew member talks to a fan with Hunky Dory hair and Aladdin Sane face paint.
Fan: “He’s from his own universe.”
Interviewer: “What universe is that?”
Fan: “The Bowie Universe.”
Interviewer: “Have you been to the Bowie Universe?”
Fan: “He’s the center, I was just drawn to it.”
Interviewer: “How were you drawn to it?”
Fan: [Shrugs] “I’m from Phoenix and [long pause] I just came.”
The film ends with Bowie fully entering his new persona. “So David Bowie becomes a soul singer,” the narrator deadpans. There’s a very David Bowie moment that precedes this conclusion. An interviewer comments that Bowie, in his concerts, seems to be playing the ghost of Ziggy Stardust. Bowie more or less agrees.
“I’m very happy with Ziggy,” Bowie says. “I think he was a very successful character, and I think I played him very well.” Then, very seriously: “But I’m glad I’m me now.”
Suddenly, he’s human once more, self-aware and laughing heartily at himself: “I’m glad I’m me now!” he says, shaking his head, vaguely embarrassed. “My God, I can trot ’em out.”
Copyright 2016, ARTnews Ltd, 40 W 25th Street, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010. All rights reserved.

The Most Iconic Artists of the Baroque

The Most Iconic Artists of the Baroque, from Caravaggio to Rembrandt

Named after the French word denoting extravagance and ornate detail, the Baroque was the dominant trend of European art from the 17th century to the middle of the 18th. Literally referring to an irregularly shaped pearl, it was less a principled stylistic movement than a suite of reactions to and rebellions against the restrained proportions of Renaissance classicism and the vagaries of Mannerism. It was a time of invention and liberation in artistic expression, but also one in which art served religious and political ends.
Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel manifested the theme of variation in Baroque music, while the monumental Palace of Versailles and spectacular, undulating buildings designed by Christopher Wren, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, and Francesco Borromini exemplify architecture of the period. Gian Lorenzo Bernini transformed the practice of sculpture, showing in works like the Fountain of the Four Rivers (1648-51) and the Ecstasy of St. Teresa (1647–52) unprecedented levels of detail and delicacy. Occurring between the ages of Enlightenment and Absolutism, Baroque style was encouraged as a powerful device for the Counter-Reformation, contributing to the reassertion of the Catholic Church through art.



Annibale Carracci 

This was especially true in the case of Italian painting. Rome’s Farnese Palace was the canvas for Annibale Carracci’s Loves of the Gods (1597–1601), a cycle of frescos commissioned by a cardinal that demonstrated early signs of Baroque innovations. Part of an academically trained, artistic family, Carracci certainly drew inspiration from classical architecture and sculpture on display throughout the city. But his idea to create an impossible world—one in which mythological scenes in false frames are supported by angelic putti, and surrounded by illusionistic architectural features and painted skies—was a radical departure from conventional design.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

While Carracci also developed an idea of landscape that would be associated with French and Northern styles, the work of other Italian artists sent shockwaves throughout Europe. None was more influential than Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. A brash, dangerous personality, Caravaggio brought gritty realism to his canvases. He painted peasants and prostitutes from the street, right down to the dirt under their fingernails, as in Boy Bitten by a Lizard (1595–1600), and cast himself as a jaundiced Bacchus and the slain giant Goliath. But however shocking works like his famous Medusa (1595–1598)—with its bloody depiction of a beheading—were, his pervasive style of chiaroscuro (the juxtaposition of light and dark to create extreme contrast) was a decisive breakthrough. By highlighting the most dramatic moment of a religious scene, works like The Supper at Emmaus (1605-06) depict profound spiritual revelations, symbolized by the intervention of divine light into an everyday setting.

Artemisia Gentileschi 

While many Italian painters would follow this compositional mode, with brightly lit scenes emerging from dark backgrounds, Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the rare women who emerged from the shadows of the male-dominated history of art. Her Judith and Holofernes (1620) is iconic and demonstrative of her work; not only does it portray a biblical episode of female strength and agency, it also offers a shining example of tenebrism, the caravaggesque style in which light comes from a single, often oblique source, creating dramatic shadows.


France, Spain, & Netherlands

Tenebrism’s dramatic punch made it extremely popular, winning acolytes across Europe. In France, Georges de la Tour produced some of the best-known works in the style, while adding to it original motifs. St. Joseph the Carpenter (1642) displays his signature device of light emanating from a candle, illuminating biblical scenes played out by people in intimate interiors. A Spanish artist working in Naples, José de Ribera further intensified contrast in works like Aristotle (1637), while his countryman Francisco de Zurbarán cast many of works, from religious scenes like Saint Francis in Meditation (1635-39) to still-life paintings, in a tenebrist mode.

Diego Velázquez

While the tranquil, sentimental work of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo became highly esteemed across Europe, the preeminent Spanish painter of the age, and one of the most revered artists in history, was Diego Velázquez. With rigorous academic training, high ambitions, and a precocious talent, he rose to the rank of official painter to Philip IV, King of Spain, whose patronage of Velázquez and other artists was a hallmark of the period. Adept in many different kinds of painting, from still-lifes to portraits to religious paintings, Velázquez also possessed a rare ingenuity that allowed him to fold several of these genres deftly into each other, as in The Waterseller of Seville (1618-22).
While many may recognize his famous Rokeby Venus (1647-51) (and perhaps its infamous chapter in the history of iconoclasm), Velázquez’s greatest achievement was Las Meninas (1656), an inventive group portrait of the royal family of Spain. Philip IV and his wife Mary Anne appear in it, but are placed in the position of the viewer and can be seen only dimly reflected in the mirror hung on the back wall of a room. Below the reflection of her parents stands the petite princess Margarita (la Infanta) surrounded by her handmaidens (las Meninas). To the left is a self-portrait of Velázquez, shown in the act of painting, it seems, the very image we now observe. A virtuosic weave of artist, subject, reflections, and angles, the painting has, since its creation, inspired responses from critics, scholars, poets, playwrights, and philosophers.

Peter Paul Rubens

Velázquez was himself deeply inspired by Peter Paul Rubens, one of the greatest Flemish artists of the period and an accomplished diplomat. As prolific as he was urbane, Rubens had deeply impressed both Velázquez and King Philip on a visit to the latter’s court in Madrid. While heavily influenced by the Italian tradition, Rubens became especially known for his representations of fleshy, full-bodied women, often with allegorical meanings. An immense cycle of 24 paintings for Marie de Médici epitomizes this style, where expressive nudes help to dramatize the overarching political narrative depicting the Queen of France’s life.

Nicolas Poussin

Rubens’s style was so prominent that it became one of two poles in an international artistic debate during the period. Where Rubenistes prioritized color, Poussinistes followed the example of the French artist Nicolas Poussin, who stressed the importance of drawing. Academically trained in France and Italy, Poussin was committed to reinstating classical principles: precise draughtsmanship, compositional balance, and the saga of human emotions, often expressed through tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Rape of the Sabine Women (1637–38), a scene from Plutarch’s history of ancient Rome, is a famous example of Poussin’s capacity to distill narrative into strained, sinuous poses and pained facial expressions. 

Claude Gellée

While Poussin also brought this emotional emphasis to landscape painting, as in the Burial of Phocion (1648-49), the most important landscape painter of the period was Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain or simply Claude. Born in France, Claude developed his mature style in Italy. The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (1648), which creates perspectival depth through classical architecture and natural light emanating from the sun, typifies Claude’s invention of the idealized harbor scene. Pastoral scenes like Landscape with Nymph and Satyr Dancing (1641) represent the idealized land, full of mythological beings and framed by repoussoir trees and classical ruins.

Rembrandt van Rijn

Claude’s techniques were instructive for generations of subsequent landscape artists, including Jacob van Ruisdael, one of the great painters in Holland. Rather than employing religious themes to reveal spiritual and artistic truths, as with Italian Baroque art, Dutch artists from the period looked to nature. Their collective ethos might be summarized by the guiding principle of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the greatest artists of the Baroque, or any period: one should be guided by nature only. His iconic The Night Watch (1642) represents one of the great climaxes of naturalism in Western art. But while they may fall within the broad and varied parameters of Baroque art, Rembrandt, Ruisdael, Rubens, and other Dutch artists like Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyck, and Johannes Vermeer worked within a more specific context: Holland’s Golden Age, a period with its own complex history.

—George Philip LeBourdais

Explore iconic artists and artworks from the Baroque on Artsy.