David Bowie on Art and Artists

david-bowie-with-his-1976-painting-of-iggy-pop-portrait-of-j-o (1)

The New York Times has reprinted a 1998 interview with David Bowie in which the art school graduate discusses his interests in visual art — both his own and that which he collected. His oeuvre, interviewer Michael Kimmelman writes, “suggested a fondness for Picabia, Schiele and the German-born British painter Frank Auerbach.” As for his collection, Bowie tells Kimmelman that he began collecting “very early on,” buying “a couple Tintorettos,” and a work by Rubens. “Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own,” he adds.

Bowie also proves himself an able critic, dismissing the greatness of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon (“he weakened fast”), and likening the work of Jake and Dinos Chapman to Jerry Springer (“this sniggering little schoolboy kind of thing”). Bowie also mentions that he got into making visual art when “Eno asked [him] to do some stuff for a charity thing.”

In a particularly revelatory exchange that began with Bowie expressing his appreciation for Damien Hirst (and mentioning that he worked on a spin painting with him), the musician spoke to the linkage between popular music and visual art:

I notice that the crowds that go to museums and galleries these days seem a lot younger than they ever were. I think they’re a generation that doesn’t see a separation between the visual and the audio. You know, 25 years ago there were a whole crop of us that tried to drag all the arts together and create this potpourri, a kind of new essence for English music. It started even before us, in the mid-60s, when so many of our blues players and rhythm-and-blues bands came out of art school. In Britain, there was always this joke that you went to art school to learn to play blues guitar.

The late rocker also served on the editorial board of Modern Painters in the 1990s, under editor Karen Wright, who recalled meeting him for the first time in another recent Times article. “When I arrived, he was looking at a Picasso catalog, and we immediately began to talk about the images, and then quickly chose a cover for my next magazine,” Wright said.

Mostafa Heddaya (@mheddaya)

(Photo: David Bowie with his 1976 painting of Iggy Pop, Portrait of J.O., via JadeArt)