David Bowie’s collection of artworks went on sale at Sotheby’s on the 10th and 11th of November. Amongst the items up for auction were a vase and a small tile by Bernard Leach. The vase with a trademark brushwork design of a leaping salmon went for an astounding £32,500; the tile, with a brushwork pattern of a deer for even more astonishing £13,125.
David Bowie’s Connection to St Ives
David Bowie was introduced to St Ives in the early 1990’s by his friend and consultant Kate Chertavian. He visited several times and he developed a special relationship with St Ives and its artists. Kate met Bowie through her friendship with his wife Iman, after which she advised him on his desire to create a major collection of art. Together they acquired through the artists, dealers, and auction houses a substantial collection of mainly modern works of art. From the start Bowie took this side of his life very seriously and immersed himself in the field. Kate states “he was not a weekend collector” – “it was his full-time job, but of course he had a full-time job, I don’t know where he got his energy from”. Apart from the Leach pots there was a generous spread of the “St Ives Modernist School” in the sale, of which; Sir Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon, Wilhelmina Barns Graham, Bryan Wynter, and Paul Feiler ranked amongst the significant works. They all exceeded their estimates by large margins. The sale which was in three parts generated just under £33 million.
I met Kate in 1995 when she was on one of her art foraging trips to Cornwall. She walked into my pottery/gallery on Fish Street in her London finery; attracted by some of my pots in the window. We became friends over a few beers at the Sloop Inn and eventually formed a working partnership. I advised her on pots which she sold from her house in Fulham, and later she put on two shows in London’s Cork Street. Together we decided to form our own collection of 20thcentury master potters and their contemporaries, this became the CBS Collection. We housed it in my gallery, and from the proceeds of sales we reinvested and slowly built a substantial collection which can be seen at St Ives Ceramics. We had hoped to add the two ceramic pieces in the sale to our collection, but were blown away by the high prices paid. Kate was also one of the first substantial contributors to the Leach Restoration Fund, a project which she wholeheartedly supported and championed. She now lives in Boston US, where she continues her work as an art consultant and remains my partner in the CBS Collection. A short video can be seen on Sotheby’s website of her relationship with David Bowie and the forming of his collection.
Director of St Ives Ceramics and Gaolyard Studios, and Honorary Lead Potter at the Leach Pottery.