Easy rider, shrewd investor... Dennis Hopper's art collection sells for $10m

Dennis Hopper's reputation as a wild man was well-earned, but in New York last week another side of his personality came to the fore - that of an astute art collector.

An auction of 40 pieces from late actor's collection at Christie's made over $10m, almost doubling the minimum estimate. The sale included a 1971 portrait of the actor himself by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1987 canvas 'Untitled'.

Andy Warhol's 1971 portrait of Dennis Hopper

The late actor and director, who died of prostate cancer in May aged 74, was a self-confessed 'gallery bum' who started collecting works by up-and-coming artists during the 1950s.

"My idea of collecting is not going out and buying bankable names but buying people that I believe are really contributing something to my artistic life," he said in a 1999 interview, and that belief in relative unknowns led him to acquire works by artists such as Warhol, Basquiat, Richard Prince and Keith Haring.

It was with Warhol that Hopper showed his greatest intuition as a collector, picking up one of the now-iconic Campbell's Soup paintings for a mere $75. Proof if ever there was that a small investment (and admittedly a lot of luck) can bring an enormous reward for those willing to take a chance in the market.

For many people Hopper represented the wild rebellious spirit of the American counter-culture, and he was deeply involved in the underground art scene of the 60s and 70s. Although primarily known as an actor and director he was also a talented painter and photographer whose work, as with his films, often focused on the darker side of American life.

Hopper's iconic 1961 photograph Double Standard

A silver gelatine copy of his 1961 photograph 'Double Standard', considered by many to be his greatest piece, sold earlier this year for $47,500, and other photos from his portfolio have sold for $7,000 - $12,000.

Hopper has an enormous appetite for culture (amongst other things), and his enthusiasm for art led him to build a collection worthy of any modern gallery. He proved that passion and knowledge can go hand in hand with business sense when it comes to collecting, and that an alternative investment can often feed the soul as much as it feed your bank balance.


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