Sotheby’s will fill its 16,000 sq ft London gallery space with more than 1500 items which will be on display from August 4–September 5 (with parts of the collection on tour in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong in June) ahead of six dedicated sales in September.
The memorabilia is being sold by Mary Austin, former girlfriend and one of Mercury’s closest friends, who was left his collection and home in Kensington. For the past 30 years his home, Garden Lodge in Kensington, London, has remained almost entirely as Mercury left it, looked after by Austin.
The Queen frontman and global superstar bought his Georgian-style brick villa, Garden Lodge, in 1980 and over the years filled it with his collection: from Victorian paintings and works on paper, to glass and fabrics. Mercury is quoted in the book, A Life, In His Own Words: “I love going to auctions and buying antiques… the one thing I would really miss if I actually left Britain would be Sotheby’s.”
Austin said: “For many years now, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things that Freddie sought out and so loved. But the years have passed, and the time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life. It was important to me to do this in a way that I felt Freddie would have loved, and there was nothing he loved more than an auction.”
Austin will be donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale to both the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Sotheby’s said Mercury’s early training as an artist in graphic art and design at Ealing Art School informed his lifelong love and appreciation of art. He also studied fashion and, in his early days, made a living from selling vintage clothes and textiles at a market stall. Another great passion was Japan.
The month-long exhibition at Sotheby’s in London will open on August 4, and close on what would have been Mercury’s 77th birthday, September 5.
The six dedicated auctions will be led by an evening sale on September 6, followed by further live auctions on September 7-8, with three online auctions alongside. The auction will be accompanied by a limited-edition Collection Book.
Among the lots to be offered are handwritten lyrics to some of Queen’s most famous songs including Mercury’s handwritten manuscript working lyrics to the megahit ‘We Are The Champions’.
Written across nine pages in total, including some leaves of British Midland Airways stationery, it is estimated at £200,000–300,000.