Bidding gets underway at the Grand Palais in Paris where the three-day auction of the Yves Saint Laurent/Pierre Bergé collection.

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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 starters.

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 ivory.

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 before.

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 Bergé collection