Music and visual art are inter-related creative fields; several modern musicians have developed a parallel career in art and others have been inspired to build their own art collection, while art in turn has often provided an inspiration to composers.
Bob Dylan not only sold more than one million albums, but started his art career in 1994 since when he has published six books of drawings and paintings, used his own drawings on album covers and exhibited in major art galleries including the National Gallery of Denmark, with an unusual move into creating wrought iron gates, shown at the Halycon Gallery in London in 2013.
“I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country, where you could breathe it and smell it every day. Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference.” (Bob Dylan)
Other musician artists include John Lennon and Paul McCartney. John Lennon attended the Liverpool Art Institute for three years before his music career took off and continued to draw throughout his life, while a major exhibition of Paul McCartney’s work was held at the Walker Art Gallery in his native Liverpool in 2002.
“John and I spent many a pleasant afternoon wandering around Walker Art Gallery when we were young, so going back to the ‘Pool with my paintings will complete some kind of circle for me and I’m really excited about it.” (Paul McCartney)
Many musicians are inspired to develop their own art collections. Elton John is lending work from his photography collection to Tate Modern for the exhibition ‘The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection’ which opens in November 2016, and some 400 items from David Bowie’s art collection are being auctioned by Sotheby’s London in November, following his death earlier this year. Bowie was an artist and collector and was also on the editorial board of the journal Modern Painters.
“I collected very early on. I have a couple of Tintorettos, which I’ve had for many, many years. I have a Rubens. Art was, seriously, the only thing I’d ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it. 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. For instance, somebody I like very much indeed is Frank Auerbach. I think there are some mornings that if we hit each other a certain way — myself and a portrait by Auerbach — the work can magnify the kind of depression I’m going through. It will give spiritual weight to my angst. Some mornings I’ll look at it and go, ”Oh, God, yeah! I know!” But that same painting, on a different day, can produce in me an incredible feeling of the triumph of trying to express myself as an artist. I can look at it and say, ”My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks.”” (David Bowie interview with Michael Kimmelman in 1998).
Sarah Cascone reviewed the collection in Artnet after Bowie’s death in January and a small taster of the forthcoming auction has been on show at Sotheby’s in London. Appropriately, there is a strong British emphasis with artists including Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, William Scott, Eduardo Paolozzi, Keith Armitage, Henry Lamb and Patrick Caulfield, albeit it is an international collection with colourful furniture and other items by the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and the American Peter Shire and work by Swiss artist and photographer Méret Oppenheim.
It is a personal collection with work that makes political and social commentary by unusual and perhaps unexpected artists including Johann Fischer from the Haus der Künstler (House of Artists) established in 1981 by the psychiatrist Leo Navratil at the Lower Austrian Psychiatric Hospital near Vienna, Romuald Hazoumè from the Republic of Benin, with masks made from discarded gasoline canisters, about which the artist said “I send back to the West that which belongs to them, that is to say, the refuse of consumer society that invades us every day”, and the African-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat whose expressive social and political paintings are also in the collections of Madonna and Debbie Harry of Blondie and whose death at the young age of 27 from a heroin overdose inspired many musicians to write music about Basquiat and his life.
This is a taster in advance of the full preview later in the year, which should provide a fascinating insight into David Bowie and the inspiration he found from his art collection.