As befitting a sale with world-famous brand associations, Christie’s dispersal of the Yves Saint Laurent–Pierre Bergé collection in Paris was more like a rock concert or fashion show than an auction.
The entire event, staged in the vast glazed and domed Art
Nouveau expanse of the Grand Palais' exhibition hall, was oversize
in every sense.
There was the 10 kilo, six-volume boxed catalogue for
Then there was the queue at the three-day public view, open
until midnight on Sunday February 22. It stretched around the
building and at one point was thought to be a kilometre long, as
Parisians waited for up to four hours to see what YSL's collection
contained before it was auctioned.
Once inside, the queue snaked slowly round Christie's Grand
Palais recreation of the rue de Babylone apartment.
The vast stage setting for the auction itself swallowed up more
than 1500 people who gathered to watch the distant on-stage figure
of the auctioneer dwarfed by giant screens relaying the performance
and the prices to the back rows… and to the world's press camped
out at the back and on the side galleries.
The results matched the scale of the setting.
The statistics for the
overall event gave Christie's the opportunity to claim
many different kinds of auction records for the various sessions
and for individual prices.
They ranged from straightforward ones such as the most expensive
private collection ever sold or the highest price for a Matisse to
more convoluted highs like the record for a German turned
The 689-lot collection, formed over the past half century by the
designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and housed in their
respective Left Bank apartments, had two strengths. Over a
relatively short period of time, the two men had assembled a
collection of real depth and quality, while the Saint Laurent
provenance gave it celebrity status.
Christie's milked both angles to the maximum to promote this
event and they and their vendor reaped the benefit. The individual
prices, mind bogglingly multi-estimate on many occasions, and the
quantity of new auction records, testified to the volume of
interest as bidding between the room and up to 100 telephones
extracted almost €374m including premium.
'Sale of the Century' was a much-bandied phrase for the Saint
Laurent/Bergé auction. Even if the century is only nine years old,
there has been nothing like it so far, or for many years
It has claimed its place in auction history.
By Anne Crane
Click here for the
final statistics for the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent-Pierre
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