Art, Pop Culture & Activism
Tribute: David Bowie
“He was an extraordinary man,
full of love and life.”
– Toni Visconti
David Bowie is remembered by many as replicating the superhuman; a chameleon or an otherworldly being who created new visionary directions for music. Whilst his legacy has been nothing less than extraordinary, Bowie’s journey to success and his recent death prove that – even with such dazzling talent – he was entirely human.
Born in South London, Brixton, on the 8th January 1947. At the age of 13 he began playing the saxophone under Ronnie Ross’ guidance. Not long after, he was performing with bands such as The King Bees, The Mannish Boys and the Lower Third.
First signed by Kenneth Pitt (1967 – 1970), Bowie’s journey didn’t immediately take off. Then came a new era of space exploration; an era that Bowie could reign with his futuristic sounds and bewildering concepts. His single Space Oddity (1969) peaked no.5 on the UK charts and has since remained a fan favourite; even reaching no.1 in the French charts after his death in 2016.
From his early-twenties to his last days, Bowie remained relevant on the international music scene producing hit after hit throughout four decades. He was heralded as the curator of Glam Rock, a participator in the creation of heavy metal, the creator of Plastic Soul, (influenced heavily by Jazz, the Blues and Soul), – and a king of electronic Pop.
Life on Mars (1971), Let’s Dance (1983), Aladdin Sane (1973), RocknRoll Suicide (1972), and Changes (1971) have been timeless famous singles.
As his music evolved, Bowie did too with provocative cross-dressing and androgynous clothing. Later, he explored complete alter-egos that gave his music a theatrical edge. One of Bowie’s most famous characters was Ziggy Stardust from his Glamrock album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider’s From Mars’ (1972). He was inspired by Vince Taylor, whom Bowie had met in the sixties. Bowie abandoned his music career after becoming involved with drugs and joining a cult that believed in an earth-bound alien deity. With a red mullet, metallic lipstick and a third eye, Bowie was transformed into Taylor’s alien then Aladdin Sane. Aladdin sane was playing on the concept of ‘a lad insane’.
“He was a master of theatre
within popular music.
He will be missed”
– Grace Jones
Aladdin Sane had similar bright red hair to Ziggy and a lightning bolt birthmark across his face, Bowie’s third alter-ego but The Thin White Duke took on a much cleaner, slicker appearance to accompany his take on Soul music.
“All of my nostalgia, instantly turned to awe.
I was hearing him sing about fiction
as a mask to show his naked soul.
This changed my life forever.”
– Marilyn Manson
Bowie’s characters evolved outside of his music too. His passion for acting caused him to feature in multiple movies including ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ (1983), ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ (1976), and ‘Labyrinth’ (1984). He even extended his talents to the Broadway stage and cartoon voice-overs.
Living in Berlin caused a rekindling of his favourite subject at school – Art. Bowie not only made time to paint, sketch and sculpt, he also added to his collection, other artist’s work. Bowie once stated that fine art ‘can change the way that I feel in the morning’. He spoke highly of Picabia, Duchamp and Auerbach drawing inspiration from their art.
David Bowie was a multi-instrumentalist, a song-writer and producer, an actor, a painter, a dancer and a mime who travelled across the world. He influenced a multitude of artistic musicians worldwide.
“He leaves behind a rich history of musical and cultural
experimentation and invention that will
rarely be seen again, if ever.
He was one of a kind.”
– Alice Cooper
Bowie and his wife of over two-decades, Iman Abdulmajid, were globally known as a philanthropic couple. They supported charities such as Keep a Child Alive, Every Mother Counts, and Food Bank for New York City. Most notably, Bowie raised awareness about HIV/AIDS research and famines across Africa. He and Iman endorsed many foundations in hope of making the world a better place.
“His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.
He made ‘Blackstar’ for us, his parting gift.
I knew for a year this was the way it would be.
I wasn’t, however, prepared for it.”
– Tony Visconti
In August 2016 , Sotheby’s in London exhibited a collection of David Bowie’s work from sculptures to furniture. Bowie was a keen collector and drew inspiration from artist’s to create his music. He told the New York Times, “My God, yeah – I want to sound like that looks,” when describing the style of Auerbach.
“The only thing I buy obsessively and addictively is art”
– David Bowie
“He did go to art school. He wanted to talk very seriously about artists,
painters, themes and movements. So it was not a hobby or a whim,
it was a very serious passionate interest.” – William Boyd
In November 2016, Sotheby’s will auction many works from his collection; 267 paintings, over 120 furniture items and sculptures.
Writer: Shay Bakht
Art Commentary: Nancy Sikah
Photo: Courtesy of Gavin Evans ©
Design: Diamond Arts – Creative ©