Dennis Hopper's posthumous retrospective that opened at Los Angeles’ MOCA last week makes abundantly clear that art played more than a bit part in the actor and director's life. But while Hopper's artwork — in particular, his photographs — is already renowned, the star's lifelong interest in collecting art is not as well known. That will change this November, when Christie’s holds a New York auction of the art that he owned, including several bold and brazen pieces he bought early on as an art-scene insider and self-professed "gallery bum."
Introduced to art by his "Rebel Without a Cause" co-start James Dean, Hopper was a voracious collector of Pop, folk, and found art throughout the 1960s — according to Vanity Fair he purchased Ed Ruschas very first Standard Oil painting, and an Andy Warhol soup can in 1962 for $75 — but he saw his collection broken up over the course of five tumultuous marriages. What remains will be sold off by his estate at Christie’s on November 10 and 11, including Warhol’s 1971 "Portrait of Dennis Hopper," which carries a high estimate of $1.2 million, and an untitled 1987 work by Jean-Michel Basquiat that the artist bought in 1988 for $17,000 to hang in his Frank Gehry-designed Venice Beach home, and which now carries a high estimate of $7 million. The sale is expected to fetch a total of $10 million. (An assortment of prints, lesser works, and memorabilia from Hopper's collection will also be included in Christie's January 2011 interiors sale.)
"It’s an artist’s collection, it’s not the collection of a banker or mogul," chairman of Christie’s Americas Marc Porter told Bloomberg. "It’s the collection of a creative artist." It is, in fact, a testament to an artist who was deeply embedded in every aspect of the fine-arts world. Just consider: Hopper played art dealer Bruno Bischofberger in "Basquiat," the 1996 movie directed by artist Julian Schnabel and also starring David Bowie as Warhol. Not only did Hopper bring a personal familiarity with the period's art scene to his role, he owned work by all three of the artists involved.