David Bowie was one of the most influential artists of his generation, and it shows in his numerous hits and incredible career longevity. Every music fan on the planet knows of David Bowie, not just for his material, but also for his persona, too.
David Bowie is a music icon, but he’s also a style icon, and it’s a mixture of these two things that made him exactly the kind of artist to be remembered for years into the future. He changed with his own styles and eras, finding inspiration in a variety of places. It’s not just about one style, however, as his Aladdin Sane era and Heroes era were extremely varied from one another, which is what made Bowie’s career so vast and impressive.
But where did Bowie find some of his inspiration? Although he has plenty of favourite musicians and contemporaries, and people often discuss the peers that he found inspiring, what about the inspiration that comes from other places? Given his unique visual elements and how they add to the music, it’s interesting to consider the visual artists he liked, too.
Although there were plenty of visual artists that he formed relationships with, he had a few that he considered to be his favourites of all time, and he cherished their work both as a part of his inspiration and simply as a fan. If you’re curious about David Bowie’s three favourite artists, you can check out these.
David Bowie’s three favourite visual artists:
3. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Basquiat is an American artist that rose to prominence during the 1980s. His work was primarily relevant in the neo-expressionism movement, utilising different shapes, colours and layering techniques.
As for Bowie’s relationship to Basquiat and his work, he wrote, of the artist, “I feel the very moment of his brush or crayon touching the canvas. There is a burning immediacy to his ever evaporating decisions that fires the imagination ten or 15 years on, as freshly molten as the day they were poured onto the canvas.”
Bowie even played the role of Andy Warhol, Basquiat’s mentor, in a Julian Schnabel film.
2. Frank Auerbach
David Bowie had a specific affinity for the sculptural effects of Frank Auerbach’s paintings and even owned the 1965 painting, Head of Gerda Boehm, himself. He described it by saying, “I find his kind of bas-relief way of painting extraordinary. Sometimes I’m not really sure if I’m dealing with sculpture or painting.”
He continued, “It will give spiritual weight to my angst. Some mornings I’ll look at it and go, ‘Oh, God, yeah! I know!’ But that same painting, on a different day, can produce in me an incredible feeling of the triumph of trying to express myself as an artist. I can look at it and say: My God, yeah! I want to sound like that looks.”
It’s clear that not only was Bowie a fan of his work, but he also found a great deal of inspiration there, too.
1. Damien Hirst
There were actually a variety of Damien Hirst works that were included as a part of Bowie’s private collection. One of his paintings, Beautiful, hallo, space-boy painting, was actually a collaborative effort between him and Bowie.
Of working together, Bowie said, “I had a ball. I felt like I was 3 years old again. It reminded me of Picasso’s attitude. You know, he set the parameters in the studio that produced a kind of playfulness out of which came a very pure thing.”
He continued, saying of Hirst’s work, “He’s different. I think his work is extremely emotional, subjective, very tied up with his own personal fears – his fear of death is very strong – and I find his pieces moving and not at all flippant.”