Brian Duffy - Photographs London Friday, May 19, 2023 | Phillips
  • Brian Duffy’s (1993-2010) 1973 portrait of David Bowie has become the definitive image of this chameleonic and formidably talented performer. It was produced as the cover for Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s follow-up album to the immensely popular The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie was a master of creating new personas, and for this album he conceptualised a version of Ziggy Stardust – the world-weary, androgenous glam rocker – who finds himself newly landed in America. Indeed, much of the music for the album was written while Bowie was on tour in America supporting Ziggy Stardust, and its songs have a harder edge than its predecessor. In order to realise his concept visually, Bowie turned to photographer Brian Duffy, a chronicler of the Swinging Sixties scene in London and an accomplished fashion photographer. 


    Duffy worked closely with make-up artist Pierre Laroche on the cosmetics and styling to arrive at Bowie’s distinctive look for the cover image. The lightning bolt emblazoned dramatically across Bowie’s face was borrowed from an unlikely source: the logo from a National Panasonic rice cooker in Duffy’s studio. Through masterful lighting and the post-production application of the teardrop pooled in the hollow of Bowie’s collarbone, Duffy created an image that was entirely new, and represented a remarkable collaboration of creative talents. In the years since its creation, the image has been called the ‘Mona Lisa of album covers’ by The Guardian and has landed on countless lists of best album covers. Duffy’s photograph has transcended its original commercial purpose to attain global cultural resonance. 


    David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, album cover, 1973.


    • Provenance

      Phillips, New York, 1 October 2019, lot 58

    • Literature

      David Bowie, Aladdin Sane (RCA, 1973), cover
      David Bowie Is the Subject, London: V&A, 2015, n.p.

    • Artist Biography

      Brian Duffy

      British • 1933 - 2010

      Brian Duffy was a British photographer and, alongside fellow photographers Terence Donovan and David Bailey, a key figure of the 1960s 'Swinging London' scene that interlaced photography, advertising and fashion. Duffy started his career in 1955 as a fashion artist for Harper's Bazaar which ignited his interest in commercial photography. His popularity in the fashion photography world of the 1960s is recognized in the plethora of magazines he contributed to such as The Sunday Times, British Vogue, Queen, Glamour, Elle and two Pirelli Calendars.


      Alongside Donovan and Bailey, Duffy aided in redefining the aesthetics of fashion photography by using the commercially unconventional 35mm camera. As part of the fashion scene, his work allowed him to form close relationships with British models such as Jean Shrimpton and Paulene Stone. Duffy also collaborated with David Bowie, and is heralded for designing, shooting and naming Bowie's Aladdin Sane album cover. By the 1970s Duffy began to focus on commercial photography and in the 1980s he moved into film direction and production, shooting commercials and music videos.

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David Bowie

Chromogenic print, printed later.
51.8 x 51.1 cm (20 3/8 x 20 1/8 in.)
Signed in ink in the margin; artist's website stamp on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

£7,000 - 9,000 

Sold for £27,940

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London Auction 19 May 2023