Sometimes art can surprise us in the strangest of places. Whether it be through a museum rediscovering a piece tucked away for decades unseen in their collection, or when a collector passes away and leaves a trove of unsorted pieces, it can make for an exciting find for the person happening upon it as well as the world at large as it’s revealed. And who would’ve thought that at a donation centre just north of Toronto, a woman would happen upon a David Bowie painting for just $5?
Discovered by a woman at a Goodwill in South River, Ontario, the painting itself was what drew the anonymous purchaser in at first. Upon further examination, she discovered it signed and dated by the legendary art-rocker from 1997—the same year as the artist’s industrial influenced album Earthling was released.
Labelled DHead XLVI, this places this work amongst Bowie’s Dead Heads series, a collection of portraits across the mid-90s with non-sequential Roman numerals attached to them. Depicting a phantasmal visage in sharp profile, the swirled acrylics of rusty and cool tones around the ghostly, featureless face are par-for-the-course of the singer’s visual style and evoke the palette of his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane years. While his visual arts practice is lesser known to the public, Bowie was an avid painter his entire life, taking much inspiration from abstract portraiture and German expressionism, and his work can be seen in liner notes and on covers of certain albums—such as the 1995 concept album Outside, which shares not only the style but the naming convention of the Dead Head series.
DHead XLVI is going up for auction through Toronto auction house Cowley Abbott. The piece is expected to fetch between $9,000 and $12,000, which certainly isn’t a bad return on a $5 thrift find. The auction will run from June 15th to 24th, and after lockdown measures had gallery doors shuttered for many months, the piece is in fact available to view in person upon appointment.
The death of David Bowie in 2016 was a loss mourned the world over (quite especially by this writer), with him bidding adieu to all via his final studio album Blackstar. He left behind a massive body of work that dove deeply into his own mind as well as conjured a reflection of the world he saw around him. A keen observer and depicter of the people and places that he met along his worldly travels, there is always his distinct and inspiring fingerprint upon any and all of the works he was involved in. And while DHead XLVI may be a subtle and simple piece of the fractal that made up his character, the discovery of a David Bowie painting tucked away inside a Goodwill still feels like the discovery of a little bit of stardust.