David Bowie? Serious art publishing? These were the questions asked after learning that the ageing Iggy Pop Stardust rocker had launched "21", a small British art press. But to many in the art world the project was not a surprise. Bowie has long been known for his cerebral collection of British Modern art and is critically respected, if not acclaimed, for his own artwork, which he launched on Cork Street last summer.
The project is destined to succeed. First, Bowie will be involved "creatively", said Janey McAllester of the Bernard Jacobson gallery on Clifford Street. "But the day-to-day business will be managed by Jacobson and Karen Wright, editor of Modern Painters Magazine."
Best of all, these three have just signed on Sir Timothy Sainsbury, former Tory MP and arts patron, as their fourth partner, a guarantee of endless capital. Their first book, Blimey! From Bohemia to Britpop: The British Art World from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst, is a sometimes fun, sometimes silly diary of the follies of the East End by art journalist Matt Collings. But that, says McAllester, is not their future.
"We wanted something irreverent to start," she says, "but we are interested in a wide range of projects, hence our next two books on Jackson Pollock and Peter Lanyon. We will also publish serious art monographs." This is no amateur small art-press. The quartet have already decided to market their product in general bookstore rather than trade and museum shops.