MONA purchases David Bowie’s original ‘Starman’ lyrics

The Hobart museum paid roughly $339,000 for the handwritten lyric sheet – five times more than the sale price initially estimated

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, Tasmania has won an action for David Bowie‘s original, handwritten lyrics for 1972 song ‘Starman’, purchasing the page for five times more than their estimated sale price.

The A4 lyric sheet features verses and the chorus for Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ classic, along with edits and spelling corrections by the songwriter himself. The item, auctioned through the Omega Auction house, was expected to fetch up to £40,000.

However, yesterday’s (September 27) winning bid came in at a whopping £203,500 ($339,000 AUD), and was submitted by MONA’s director of acquisitions, Olivier Varenne, on behalf of the museum.


“We got carried away and paid too much,” MONA owner David Walsh told the ABC. “It’ll make an appearance in the expanded library we are currently constructing, along with many other items we got carried away with and paid too much for.”

Prior to the auction, the lyrics had been on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on loan, as part of the museum’s David Bowie Is collection. “We had almost unprecedented interest from around the world for this historic piece of memorabilia,” Omega Auctions’ Paul Fairweather told The Guardian.

“We’re very pleased with the incredible price achieved and are sure the lyrics will be rightly prized and treasured by the winning bidder.”

The sale of Bowie’s ‘Starman’ lyrics follows a demo thought to be among the first recordings of the song selling at auction for £51,000 back in 2019, also through Omega. Similarly to the lyric sheet, the tape recording – made in 1971 by Bowie and Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson – was initially estimated to sell for £10,000, approximately five times less than it ended up going for.

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