At Sotheby’s London, A David Bowie Sale Ain’t Rock ‘n Roll – It’s Memphis

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In public, David Bowie was an era-defining singer-songwriter, performance artist and style-setter. His style sensibility also informed his private passions. Following his death in January his family is selling more than three hundred fifty pieces of modern and contemporary art and furniture that he collected over his lifetime.

At the core of the three-part Sotheby’s London auction on November 10 and 11 will be artworks by major British artists including Damien Hirst, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and Frank Auerbach. But on November 11, about 100 pieces of designer furniture will also go under the hammer, including iconic creations by Italian designer Ettore Sotsass and his Milan-based Memphis group.

Among these, a post-modernist Carlton book-case/ room-divider, in wood and brightly colored plastic laminate, from the first Memphis collection in 1981, is estimated at £5,000 to £7,000 ($6000 to $8500).  From the same show, a Sottsass Casablanca sideboard in similar style is estimated at £ 3,000 to £5,000 ($3700 to $6000), while a playful dog-on-a leash “Super Lamp” by the French Memphis member Martine Bedin is estimated at £ 250 to £350 ($300 to $425). A “Big Sur” sofa, by the Los Angeles-based Memphis associate Peter Shire, dated 1986, is estimated at £3,000 to £5,000 ($3700 to $6000).

One highlight of pre-Memphis design is a boxy stereo cabinet, with wittily shaped controls resembling a robot face with detachable speakers for “ears”. Made in 1966 by the brothers Pier-Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Brionvega, the RR 126 Radiophonograph is estimated at £800 to £1,200 ($975 to $1500).

A preview show at Sotheby’s London will begin from November 1 with three days of conferences, November 4 to 6, focused on Bowie’s influence on fashion, art and design. A ticket-only all night viewing on November 4, with bar, DJ, film screening and yoga, is already sold out.

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Ettore Sottsass, 'Ashoka' Lamp (1981) | (c) Sotheby’s

Ettore Sottsass, ‘Ashoka’ Lamp (1981) | (c) Sotheby’s

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