Rare David Bowie painting discovered on a Canadian landfill and bought for $4 at a thrift shop sells for $88,000 at auction
- Unnamed seller picked it up at a donation center by a landfill last summer
- He noticed ‘David Bowie’ on the back and took it to a Toronto auction house
- They verified it was indeed a 1990s work by the legendary British rocker
- It was subject of a bidding frenzy in an online auction that ended on Thursday
- Painting won by anonymous US bidder for more than ten times the estimate
David Bowie in New York in 2007
A David Bowie painting bought for $4 at a Canadian landfill site has sold for $88,000 at auction after the owner discovered it was a rare work by the legendary British star.
Painted on a 9.75 x 8 inch canvas, the red, white and blue abstract portrait is part of a series of 47 works Bowie created between 1995 and 1997 which he entitled Dead Heads (or D Head).
The seller, who has not been identified, picked it up at the Machar Mall donation center by a dump in Ontario last summer.
He was ‘astonished’ when he read the label ‘David Bowie’ and realized it was the signature of the artist inscribed on the reverse, Toronto auctioneer’s Cowley Abbott said.
He brought the work to them in November and they authenticated it with a Bowie specialist in the UK.
It went under the hammer in an online auction which wrapped on Thursday, with Cowley Abott saying it had been ‘inundated’ with interest after the story of the lost painting made headlines around the world.
It was won by a private buyer in the United States for a massive $88,000 (CAD 108,120), more than ten times the estimate.
Painted on a 9.75 x 8 inch canvas, the red, white and blue abstract portrait (pictured) is part of a series of 47 works Bowie created between 1995 and 1997 which he entitled Dead Heads
Rob Cowley, (pictured) president of Cowley Abbott, describes the painting as an ‘abstract self portrait’
‘Our gallery was inundated with calls and interest for the Bowie painting throughout the duration of our Online Auction of International Art,’ Rob Cowley, president of Cowley Abbott, told Blog TO.
‘It’s a phenomenon we call the Hollywood Effect, when there is a famous name attached, or when there is an extraordinary set of circumstances such as rarity or human-interest story behind the artwork.’
Bowie was an artist and art collector who began painting in 1976, an interest he renewed in the 1990s.
Known for his avant-garde style, Bowie studied art and design as a young man and had a love of fine art throughout his lifetime.
The Grammy-Award winning singer, who died of liver cancer aged 69 in 2016, had numerous iconic records including the 1983 album Let’s Dance and 1972s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
His artwork was heavily influenced by the modernist art trends of the 20th century and his paintings have the stylistic influences of the German expressionists, Francis Bacon and the London School of painters, Cowley Abbott Fine Art said in a press release.
Johnny Kershner, who has worked at the Machar landfill for three years, told northbaynipissing.com he could not believe the thrift shop had such a rare piece of art laying around.
‘I saw the picture when it was here, and I didn’t think anything of it — it’s the craziest stuff that comes through here,’ he said.
Bowie, (pictured) who was known for his avant-garde style, studied art and design as a young man and had a love of fine art throughout his lifetime
Bowie’s artwork was heavily influenced by the modernist art trends of the twentieth century and his paintings have the stylistic influences of the German expressionists, Francis Bacon and the London School of painters. One of his portraits is seen at a gallery in London in 1995
The auction house also contacted Andy Peters, who has been collecting Bowie autographs since 1978 to authenticate the singers signature.
‘When I first saw the painting, I knew what it was straightaway,’ Peters told CNN.
It is not clear who the portrait is of, but Bowie often painted band members, friends and acquaintances as well as self-portraits.
‘In this case, even the gender is difficult to discern because it doesn’t have any facial features besides the side profile,’ auction boss Cowley told CNN. ‘It’s quite a striking portrait, but it’s very difficult to say exactly who it might be.’
The figure in the painting is in side profile and has no facial features with hair coming down the side of their face.
The figure is dressed in teal and has touches of teal in their hair with some patches darkish red hair framing their face.
A painting from the same collection fetched $27,500 when it was sold by Christies auction in 2018.