Buy a painting in a landfill for $5 and it turns out to be a work by David Bowie

Stroke of luck for a Canadian citizen who for $5 buys a painting in a landfill in his city: it turns out the work is by David Bowie and is sold at auction for 73,000 euros.

Great stroke of luck for a Canadian citizen who bought for $5 a painting that later turned out to be a work by David Bowie. The story begins in Machar, a town of not even a thousand inhabitants located 300 km north of Toronto: here, the local landfill offers people the opportunity to put up for sale items they want to dispose of. A citizen therefore entered the dump’s flea market, noticed the painting, and bought it for the sum of 5 Canadian dollars, or 3.40 euros. On the back of the painting was a label attributing the painting to David Bowie, but no one gave it any particular weight until the buyer decided to take the work to the Cowley Abbott auction house to ask how much it might be worth.

The painting was then appraised by experts who, together with the foundation responsible for the authentication of David Bowie’s works, found, against the expectations of the lucky owner (who thought it was a work of no particular value), that it was indeed a work by the Heroes singer: it was also discovered that the painting had been sold in 2001, via the artist’s website, for the sum of 2,300 pounds.

The work belongs to the Dead Heads series. It is a cycle of between 40 and 50 paintings: Bowie made them between 1995 and 1997, executing semi-abstract portraits of his friends and family members. Bowie had studied painting as a young man and never abandoned his passion: in particular, he favored German expressionism and the painting of Francis Bacon. All of these cues are captured in the work, number XLVI in the series (Bowie numbered each of the paintings with nu Roman numeral).

The work in question, from 1997, was offered for sale with an estimate of between 9 and 12,000 Canadian dollars (or between about 6,000 and 8,000 euros) and eventually sold for 108,120 Canadian dollars, or 73,000 euros. How it ended up in a small Canadian landfill remains to be clarified, however.

Photo: David Bowie, Dhead XLVI (1997; acrylic and collage on canvas, 24.8 x 20.3 cm)

Buy a painting in a landfill for $5 and it turns out to be a work by David Bowie
Buy a painting in a landfill for $5 and it turns out to be a work by David Bowie

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