'It's not been a bad life...' - a look at Dennis Hopper's memorabilia

Last weekend, on May 29, the actor Dennis Hopper died after a battle with cancer, aged 74. Behind him, he leaves a legacy of scenery-chewing film performances, photography and art.

As news of Hopper's death quickly spread around the internet, it has also prompted a widespread reappraisal of his life and work - revealing secrets which have long been known to collectors.

Hopper's film career was certainly idiosyncratic. Alongside iconic performances in renowned films (including Blue Velvet and Apocalypse Now) are movie projects that even the actor himself would perhaps like forgotten.  

Dennis Hopper's Double Standard, 1961

Nevertheless, as far back as the late 1950s, when Hopper was carving his niche in film's like Rebel Without a Cause, he was already forging a concurrent career as an artist and collector (see the above video).

Here is a look at some key Dennis Hopper collectibles, and the revelations they hold of the different sides to the man's life and legacy...

The photographer

Hopper's earliest days in Hollywood were often marred by run-ins with powerful directors, and subsequent struggles to find gainful employment.

Hopper as he appears in Easy Rider

But even when Hollywood closed its doors to Hopper's precocious talents, the young actor still needed a creative outlet - which he found in photography.

Among Hopper's most famous photography works is his 1961 image Double Standard, a vivid depiction of a young man's life on the move, shot from the driver's seat of a convertible.

Back in 2002, a signed and numbered (15 of 15) gelatin silver print of the work sold for $28,680 at Christie's, almost doubling its pre-sale estimate of just $10,000-15,000.

More recently, copy number five from the fun of 15 auctioned at Phillips De Pury for $47,500.

The artist

Aside from having his own extensive art collection, Hopper occasionally dabbled in art himself. This work, a lifocolour print mounted on canvas entitled Venice, is a rough collage.

Hopper's Venice, 1995

Executed in 1995, the 75 x 50 inches canvas is inscribed, "For Tom Freston your (sic) the Best Man Thanks + Love Dennis Hopper" on its reverse.

The piece auctioned at Christie's in New York for $10,000, back in August 2008.

The filmmaker

Hopper notched up more than 200 acting performances during his career - but only eight as a director. Many consider this a great shame, especially considering that Hopper's directorial debut was the iconic rebel road movie, Easy Rider.

Easy Rider became a surprise mega hit in 1969, and is today credited with defining a generation and even changing the way movies are made.

Hopper starred alongside Peter Fonda as hippie motorcyclists trying to obtain their own version of the American Dream, via a drug deal which takes them on a road trip across the Southern and Southwestern United States.

Peter Fonda's Easy Rider jacket badge sold at Heritage for $89,625

The film's tagline read: "They went searching for the American Dream and couldn't find it anywhere" - but collectors were able to buy a small piece of the Dream at Heritage Auction Galleries in 2007.

The Dallas auction house sold the original, one-and-only American flag patch worn on the back of Peter Fonda's character Wyatt's motorcycle jacket, featured prominently throughout the movie and also on its classic poster.

Russell Young's mug shot portrait

Peter kept the jacket after production wrapped, and wore it until it wore out. He saved the patch, framed it, and held onto it for almost 40 years before it was consigned to auction.

Above its estimate of $50,000, the patch sold for an incredible $89,625.

The hell raiser

Hopper was once jailed for 20 minutes and given a $250 fine after fleeing from a traffic accident that he caused in Taos, Mexico.

The actor was eventually caught and charged with careless driving, fleeing the accident and not informing police of the accident - and became the subject of an obligatory mug shot.

The shot was reproduced on canvas in vivid red by the artist Russell Young, in 2004.

Appearing at auction alongside other infamous celebrity mug shots including Jane Fonda and Frank Sinatra, this document of Hopper's occasional life on the wrong side of the tracks was valued at $25,000.


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