Musician David Bowie published a monograph of the Artist on April Fools Day 1998
Sotheby’s the London auctioneer is selling a drawing by the fictional artist Nat Tate, whose work and life was allegedly created in the publication of his biography, nearly forty years after his death in 1960.
Author William Boyd published a monograph as a hoax presenting Tate as an important artist with a lavish biography back in the late 1990s. Musician David Bowie even hosted a party at Jeff Koons’s Manhattan studio to promote his new art publishing house (21 Publishing) and its first publication, the biography Nat Tate: An American Artist. Gore Vidal, John Richardson (Picasso’s biographer), and David Bowie (a board member of Modern Painters magazine and director of 21 Publishing, which published the book) were all participants in the hoax. Nat Tate’s name is a combination of two London art galleries, the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. Boyd and his co-conspirators set about convincing the New York glitterati (social elites) that the reputation of this influential abstract expressionist needed to be re-evaluated. The guest list ran like the who’s who of the New York art world, with high-profile revellers ranging from the iconic supermodel and later Mrs Bowie,Imam, to Brad Pitt, and the most important media critics of the time. The party was a rather decadent affair, one that was meant to be a celebration by New York art aficionados of the mysterious man ‘behind the bridges’, some of whom had reportedly visited the galleries that had held Nat Tate’s exhibitions and others even recalled crossing paths with this somewhat mysterious artist. Bowie held a launch party on April Fool’s Day, 1998, and read extracts from the book, while Richardson talked about Tate’s friendships with both Picasso and Braque.Karen Wright, one of Bowie’s co-directors at 21 Publishing said the hoax was not meant to be malicious.”Part of it was, we were very amused that people kept saying ‘Yes, I’ve heard of him’. There is a willingness not to appear foolish. Critics are too proud for that. Sotheby’s have stated that 18 of Tate’s work are in circulation or in private collections. The one being sold on November 16 is estimated at £3000 – £5000 (about $4700 – 7900).