Belfast Telegraph

Works by NI sculptor McWilliam who David Bowie treasured go under the hammer

By Dick Barton

Three works by one of Northern Ireland's finest sculptors, which were owned by the late David Bowie, are expected to sell at auction for at least £24,000.

The bronze sculptures by Banbridge-born FE McWilliam are among the hundreds of items of art which belonged to the musician.

It is expected the collection will fetch more than £10m at a two-day auction at Sotheby's in London on November 10 and 11.

The most valuable of the McWilliam sculptures - which will all be auctioned on the second day - is titled Study Princess Macha 1, which is expected to sell for between £12,000 and £18,000.

Meanwhile, the other two McWilliam bronzes, Girl on Edge of Bed II and Kneeling Girl II, are each tipped to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000.

Frederick Edward McWilliam, son of medical practitioner William Nicholson McWilliam, was born in Newry Street in Banbridge on April 30, 1909.

Educated at Campbell College in Belfast and at Belfast College of Art, in 1964 he received an honorary degree from Queen's University.

McWilliam's importance as a sculptor was officially confirmed in December 1989 when he was elected to the Royal Academy, which entitled him to place the letters 'RA' after his name. Since the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, there have been only 603 Royal Academicians, including Turner, Constable, Gainsborough and Reynolds, making McWilliam part of an important group of artists.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, McWilliam "continued to carve with verve until almost the end of his life".

McWilliam was 83 when he died of cancer in London in May 1992. He left nearly £1.5m in his will.

Bowie died on January 10, aged 69, after a secret battle with cancer. His death came just two days after the release of his critically acclaimed 25th album, Blackstar.

Bowie's life as a collector was something he kept almost entirely hidden from public view.

Now hundreds of works by artists including Damien Hirst, Henry Moore and Marcel Duchamp will go on display at Sotheby's in London, before being sold at auction next month.

Bowie always loaned generously to museum exhibitions, but the auction catalogue reveals an avid passion for collecting and deep intellectual engagement with the artworks he owned.

Bowie's collection is as eclectic and thought-provoking as his music. The 350-plus artworks range from post-war British avant-garde painting to German Expressionism and surrealist pieces created in the aftermath of the first democratic elections in South Africa.

As well as 267 paintings, more than 120 items of 20th Century furniture and sculpture will also be sold. Among them is a striking 1960s stereo cabinet created by the Italian designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.

Bowie told The New York Times in 1998: "Art was, seriously, the only thing I'd ever wanted to own. It has always been for me a stable nourishment. I use it."

A spokesperson for the Estate of David Bowie said that his family were "keeping certain pieces of particular personal significance", but that it was "now time to give others the opportunity to appreciate - and acquire - the art and objects he so admired".

Belfast Telegraph


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