David Bowie and Maurice Cockrill

In hindsight, it is not surprising that Bowie collected Maurice Cockrill's work. Cockrill rose to prominence in the 1980s as part of a generation of artists who rejected more conceptual pursuits for painterly expressionism. This more personal and direct approach would have appealed to such a consummate stage performer. Cockrill's core themes of regeneration, rebirth and renewal may also have chimed with Bowie. Rather more commercially, Cockrill was also part of a stable of artists managed by Bernard Jacobson, who sold numerous works to Bowie in the late 80s and 90s.

We expected to see works by Cockrill in the auctions dedicated to Bowie's collection although this was only confirmed on receipt of the catalogues. Cockrill was represented by three small mid-1990s oils. Although not show stoppers when hung next to the Basquiats and Bombergs, they were nonetheless particularly fine examples. They carried almost laughably low estimates; each was valued at a mere £600-800, which was a reflection of the rather patchy recent record the artist has had at auction. However, Bowie bought fine examples and they were comfortably higher in quality than much of the recent work to appear in the salerooms. The three lots were grouped together, the first taking £7,500, the second £15,000 and the third £16,000 – all before buyer's premium and Artist Resale Rights (you may add 34% on each to account for those costs).

This was a special event that achieved some very special prices. Cockrill's auction record fell, but so did the records for over 20 other artists including Peter Lanyon and Frank Auerbach. While we are not suggesting that each and every work by Cockrill should be revalued in light of this sale, we do hope that the sale has introduced his work to a wider audience, and also reminded those who had become familiar with his less successful works that on his day, Cockrill was one of the finest British painters of the late 20th century.

View works by Maurice Cockrill here.

Image copyright of Sotheby's.

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