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Tuesday, 7 April, 1998, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Bowie and Boyd "hoax" art world
Bowie: moving readings about the artist who never was
Some of the biggest names in the art world have reportedly been fooled by a biography of a fake artist created by the author William Boyd and the rock star David Bowie.

Last week the glitterati of New York gathered for a launch party of Boyd's biography of the apparently rediscovered American painter Nat Tate.

Bowie, a director of 21 Publishing, the company which produced the book, read extracts to the gathering.

Critics on the other side of the Atlantic were due to attend the British launch of the memoir on Tuesday. Several British papers, including the Sunday Telegraph, have already run extracts from the book.

Excerpts were also published on Bowie's own website.

Fake history

However, the Independent newspaper says Tate and the story of how he befriended painters Picasso and Braque, suffered from depression, burned most of his paintings and then killed himself aged 31, is all fiction.

Some of the paintings pictured in the book were reportedly by Boyd himself. Photos of Tate were from Boyd's own collection of pictures of unidentified people.

The ruse was made more convincing by an endorsement on the book's dust cover from the veteran writer and political commentator Gore Vidal.

In the book he is also quoted as remembering Tate as "essentially dignified, drunk with nothing to say".

John Richardson, the acclaimed biographer of the artist Pablo Picasso, was also in on the scam and is also quoted.

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."

See also:

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