A hands-on artistic celebration of a musical hero

HANDS OF HEROES Artist Guy Portelli and his sculpture Photo: Tom Hagler

Last weekend, local artist Guy Portelli unveiled his sculptural tribute to the legendary David Bowie. Eileen Leahy finds out more…


Every January The Forum hosts a special David Bowie tribute evening to coincide with what would have been the rock star’s birthday (January 8) but to also mark the anniversary of his death (January 10).

The legendary musician whose hits include Heroes, Let’s Dance and Life on Mars, died of cancer in 2016. And since then the iconic music venue has celebrated Bowie’s huge canon of classic songs courtesy of a wealth of talented vocalists – as well as The Forum’s in-house band.

This year, as part of The Forum’s 30th anniversary, the venue commissioned local artist Guy Portelli to make a special sculpture in order to mark the extraordinary life and exceptional artistry of David Bowie.

The mosaic masterpiece was unveiled the day before the tribute concert on January 6 and will now be in situ at The Forum until early March, when it will go on a tour of different museums, galleries and venues so Bowie fans around the globe can see it up close.

Guy, a Tonbridge-based artist, who found fame on the BBC’s Dragons Den in 2008, tells the Times that his work tends to be centred around ‘the crossover between art and music’.

In addition to his new Bowie sculpture, over the years Guy has created a sizeable collection of pop icon portraits that span from Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse.

He explains that his latest sculpture has taken three years to complete and that it is a very personal piece.

“People who worked with or knew Bowie donated their handprints to the project,” Guy says.

“Among those featured are guitar legends Nile Rodgers, Peter Frampton and also Jeff Beck –  who died last week and lived in Wadhurst. Others include producers Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys and DJ, Goldie. There are many other artists, old friends – even some reclusive ex-girlfriends,” smiles Guy.

The giant mosaic is made up of a total of 69 handprints in order to reflect the age Bowie was when he died.

“It’s taken three years of work to track all these people down and then make this,” adds Guy, who is known as ‘sculptor to the rock stars’ courtesy of pieces he has made for Ringo Starr and Robbie Williams.

Guy was assisted by local Bowie expert and author Tom Hagler to get each of the 69 different handprints commissioned. All of the participants, he says, were delighted to help in order to ‘retain fond memories of the singer’.

After its stint at The Forum, the Bowie sculpture will go on show at the Mall Galleries in London from March 2-11 before it embarks on a worldwide tour to various venues.

The Bowie concert at The Forum on January 7 was a sell-out and helped to raise money for the West Kent Mind Charity.

For more information on Guy Portelli’s work visit: https://m1fineart.com/artists/55-guy-portelli/portelli-sculptor.co.uk

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