David Bowie Painting Found In South River For Just $5 Sells For Over $100,000

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David Bowie painting entitled D Head XLVI. The painting is an image of a person's profile with long hair and pale skin. Aside from the pink tones of the skin, the figure is teal with red accents and a blood red background.
D Head XLVI, a painting by David Bowie. Image courtesy of Cowley Abbott

A distinctive painting by music icon David Bowie garnered international headlines for its unique discovery and drew a bidding frenzy at Cowley Abbott’s Online Auction of International Art.  The much-anticipated auction debut of D Head XLVI, which is part of a series of approximately 45 works on canvas that Bowie titled Dead Heads (or D Heads), sold for more than 10 times the low-end of the auction estimate to a private collector in the United States for CAD $108,120 (inclusive of Buyer’s Premium).

The sale marks a new global auction record for a work by David Bowie, more than doubling the 2016 sale of a D Head series artwork for £22,500 (approximately $39,000 CAD) in the United Kingdom.  Within the first hours of Cowley Abbott’s online auction, opening bids for D Head XLVI surpassed the auction estimate of $9,000 to $12,000; and within the first few days, it already set a new record. It continued to garner bids that spiked during the final hours of the auction, drawing more almost 50 bids from across Canada and as far as Australia.

“Our gallery was inundated with calls and interest for the Bowie painting throughout the duration of our Online Auction of International Art. 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,” said Rob Cowley, President of Cowley Abbott.

“We’ve seen this effect previously with other artworks Cowley Abbott has sold, including a Maud Lewis painting that set an auction record in 2016, the same year Maudie, the biopic movie about Lewis, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke was released; and with a William Kurelek painting that sold nearly three times its auction estimate for more than $40,000, that was originally gifted by the artist as a thank you for a basket of strudels.”

D Head XLVI was found in the most unexpected place: a donation centre for household goods in South River, just south of North Bay, Ont. The chance discovery of this treasure within a pile of unwanted goods is quite remarkable. The consignor of the painting was astonished upon viewing a label which read “David Bowie” and realizing it was the signature of the artist inscribed on the reverse.

D Head is one of several works of art to recently set an auction record with Cowley Abbott. Another painting also came from northern Ontario from a Muskoka resident – a large-scale canvas by Jack Bush, Column on Browns, that set a new global auction record for the artist, selling for $870,000.

“Valuable art can be found in the most unexpected places, as well as in your own backyard,” says Lydia Abbott, Vice-President of Cowley Abbott.  “We often come upon an important work of art that has been inherited or has been in a family home for many years without the owners knowing anything about the artist or value of the work.”

Cowley Abbott is currently accepting consignments for its upcoming auctions of Important Canadian & International Art. Cowley Abbott is an industry leader in the promotion and sale of rare and significant works of art, regularly achieving record prices for their consignors through highly-competitive and all-inclusive commissions. The firm offers confidential and complementary art valuations (virtual or in-person by appointment) to prospective consignors.  For more information about Cowley Abbott, upcoming auctions and appraisals, go to CowleyAbbott.ca.

David Bowie Painting Found In South River Currently Up For Auction

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