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David Bowie’s treasures hit the auction block

David Bowie hid his art in plain sight. The late British rock star regularly lent works from his extensive collection to major institutions — among them the Tate St. Ives in London and Manhattan's Paul Kasmin Gallery — often with his name displayed on the wall next to them.

Still, the announcement that Sotheby's (sothebys.com) has auctioned roughly 400 pieces from his collection has come as a revelation to many.

"[Bowie's collection] was done with passion, intellect, and wit," says Sotheby's specialist Simon Hucker. "Cost didn't matter. He was just going for things that moved him." The result is an eclectic assemblage that ranges from Georges Braque (whom Bowie references in his 1969 song "Unwashed and Slightly Dazed") to Damien Hirst.

A top lot from the auction — which took place in three parts on November 10 and 11 — is Jean-Michel Basquiat's Air Power, a 1984 canvas sold for £7 million (about $A11.8 million).

Bowie purchased it around the time that he played Andy Warhol in the 1996 film Basquiat. Hucker says that Air Power resonated with Bowie on many levels: "It was part of his wider lifelong interest in outsiders — and he loved the fact that Basquiat wanted to be a rock star as well."

Air Power became the top lot of the sale quickly and was also the most-viewed online. The first three Bowie auctions finished in style, with a total of 47 lots sold, valued at £24.3 million (about $A40.9 million).

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