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From the Daily Telegraph Monday May 6th 2002
Rock star sells out --- Basquiat sale by Will Bennett
Metallica are the monsters of heavy metal music, pumping out ear-splitting doom-laden tracks as black as their trademark stage clothing. For two decades they have raged against the world and sold millions of records to the alienated outsiders and discontented teenagers who worship them.
Such is their success that Lars Ulrich, the Danish born drummer who was one of the band's founders, has had no trouble assembling an art collection that's expected to fetch up to £10 million when he sells it at Christie's. What's more surprising however is that a man best known for thrashing his drums amid a cacophony of sound should be an art collector at all. But away from what he calls his "day job", Ulrich is a thoughtful, intense man.
the son of the Danish professional tennis player Torben Ulrich, he grew up surrounded by art and music, and both have always been part of his life. After founding Metallica in America in 1981 (with guitarist and singer James Hetfield) he started to visit museums and art galleries during the band's long periods on the road. He began buying at auction and soon found himself drawn towards the CoBrA artists, an international group who worked in Copehagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam in the early fifties and specialised in primitive, highly expressionist art.
This was partly a return to his Danish roots, but he says that he was also attracted to the CoBrA artists "because they are really about the moment and where that moment took you." He prefers art that doesn't set out to achieve "a deliberate end result."
It was the start of an artistic journey that took him from CoBrA painters such as Karen Appel and Asger Jorn to Jean Dubuffet and eventually, to the American graffitti artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat who died young of a heroin overdose in 1989.
What linked these artists was the naivety and energy of their work. Ulrich began to study them with typical intensity, poring over books as Metallica travelled the world. "I felt I could lose myself in art and get away from the music world," he says. "It became this great hiding place."
Admitting to an obsessive streak, Ulrich says that he soon decided to track down paintings that he wanted rather than waiting for them to appear in auctions or dealers' galleries. His greatest triumph was to get the Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger to sell him Basquiat's Profit I, which he first saw at an exhibition in Trieste. "it was the last great Basquiat that he had," says Ulrich, "and he had not intended to part with it. It took years to convince him to sell.
"even if I had not ended up buying Profit I, the time spent pursuing it would still have been worthwhile. collecting is not about the trophy on the wall, it is about the journey."
However, despite all the effort invested in acquiring it, Profit I is one of five paintings from Ulrich's collection that are to be auctioned at Christie's in New York on May 14, where it is expected to fetch £2 million to £3.5 million. Dubuffet's Paris Montparnasse is estimated at £1.7 million to £2.4 million.
Another seven works will be auctioned by Christie's in London on June 27, including Basquiat's Untitled (Saint) which is estimated at £800,000 to £1 million.
altogether three quarters of the collection assembled by Ulrich over the past decade is up for sale over the next few months.
Now married with two young children, Ulrich is selling because he plans to build a huge new home on a 200-acre mountaintop site that he has bought near San Francisco. All the energy that the 38 year old rock star previously poured into his art collection is now being redirected into studying architecture.
"Right now, "he says, "I am at a crossroads where I want to shed some of the things that I have amassed in my present home, mostly before I was married. I want to start over again."
But once the five to 10 year building project is over, he says he may return to art collecting and is thinking of buying paintings by Brice Marden and Cy Twombly. Owners of their works may yet find the persistent Ulrich knocking on their doors.