The Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Realises $483.8 Million at Christie's

A pait of visitors look at a marble minotaur on view at the Grand Palais

The three-day sale of the magnificent Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé at the Grand Palais, offered by Christie’s in association with Pierre Bergé & Associates auctioneers, realised in total €373 935 500 / £332 802 595 / $483 835 144. A remarkable 95.5% of lots sold by lot, and 93% sold by value. This historic sale set a world record for the most valuable private collection sold at auction, was the highest grossing sale in Europe on record, and set multiple world records for Impressionist and Modern Art, 20th Century Decorative Arts, Silver, Sculpture and Works of Art. One of the most exceptional and significant collections of art in private hands, it generated unprecedented interest from bidders throughout the world and pre-sale estimates for both the sale as a whole and the individual works, were significantly exceeded.

Highlights of these exceptional and rare works of art, each with impeccable provenance, captured the attention of international collectors as they were exhibited by Christie’s, in association with Pierre Bergé and Associates, in New York, London, Brussels and Paris in the last four months. The spectacular public exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this unique curated collection of art and to experience the evocative atmosphere of Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment at rue de Babylone, was viewed by over 30,000 visitors over 3 days (21-23 February), and over 1500 people gathered for each of the sales, held in a specially built saleroom, the largest in Christie’s history.

The top lot of the sale was Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose, 1911 by Henri Matisse, which sold for €35 900 000 / £31 900 000 / $46 400 000. 16 works of art sold for over €5 000 000 and 61 works of art sold for over €1 000 000. Numerous world auction records were set in each sale, and in almost every part of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Collection, a tribute to their discerning eye for provenance and museum quality.

The proceeds of the sale will go to the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, created to prolong the history of the House of Yves Saint Laurent, and to a new foundation that will be set up for scientific research and the fight against AIDS.

Pierre Bergé said: “The sale of the collection that I had built in partnership with Yves Saint Laurent draws to a close and has been a triumph. My expectations have been fully realized. I thank Christie’s for the organization of both the preview exhibitions and the sale itself in the setting of the Grand Palais. I offer my gratitude to the public who came in huge numbers and were prepared to queue patiently for many hours. The results of the sale exceed our highest expectations and confirm the potential of the Paris marketplace to rise to such an occasion. The results also demonstrate that even in a difficult economic climate, works of art of great quality preserve their power and their value.”

Impressionist and Modern Art
On 23 February, at the inuagural session of the sale, the most significant collection of Impressionist and Modern Art in private hands sold for a total of €206 000 000 / £183 000 000 / $266 000 000, a world record for a private collection at auction and the highest total achieved for any Impressionist and Modern Art sale in Europe. The top lot of the evening was Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose, 1911 by Henri Matisse, which sold for €35 900 000 / £31 900 000 / $46 400 000, the highest price ever achieved for a work by the artist at auction, and 8 works of art sold for over €5 000 000. 25 works of art sold for over €1 000 000 (24 lots for over £1 000 000 / 25 lots over $1 000 000). 7 world records were set for artists at auction, including Matisse, Brancusi, Mondrian, de Chirico, Duchamp, Klee and Ensor.

Thomas Seydoux, International Head of Impressionist and Modern Art said: “This record sale, which achieved the highest total for any Impressionist and Modern Art sale in Europe, and was the most valuable private collection ever sold at auction in the world, was a tribute to two great men: Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. Collectors, gathered in the largest saleroom that Christie’s has ever seated, responded to the opportunity of a lifetime to buy into a Collection carefully assembled over almost five decades. There was significant bidding on the telephone from a deep pool of international buyers and many rare and exceptional works, each with impeccable provenance and condition, set world record prices for artists at auction. This historical sale demonstrated the timeless appeal of Impressionist and Modern art, this long-established and highly valued category.”

Other major highlights of the sale included:

•Madame L.R. (Portrait de Mme L.R.), a magnificent example of Constantin Brancusi’s earliest and enigmatic sculptures in wood sold for €29 100 000 / £25 900 000 / $37 700 000 (estimate: €15 000 000 – 20 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction.

•Three abstract paintings by Piet Mondrian, which each belong to key stages in the artist’s work, and express degrees of tension between line, form and colour were all sold above their high estimates. Composition avec bleu, rouge, jaune et noir, 1922 sold for €21 500 000 / £19 100 000 / $27 900 000 (estimate: €7 000 000-10 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction; Composition avec grille 2, 1918 sold for €14 400 000 / £12 800 000 / $18 600 000 (estimate: €7 000 000-10 000 000), and Composition I, 1920, sold for €7 000 000 / £6 200 000 / $9 000 000 (estimate: €5 000 000-7 000 000).

•Fernand Léger’s great mechanical paintings of 1918 and 1919, painted during one of his most brilliant periods drew significant attention: Composition, dans l’usine, 1918 sold for € 5 500 000 / £4 900 000 / $7 100 000 (estimate: €6 000 000 – 8 000 000). La tasse de thé, 1921, sold for € 11 400 000 / £10 200 000 / $14 800 000 (estimate: €10 000 000 – 15 000 000).

•The ready-made masterpiece “La Belle Haleine – Eau de Voilette” by Marcel Duchamp, with the assistance by Man Ray in 1921, witnessed fierce bidding in the room and realized € 8 900 000 / £7 900 000 / $11 500 000, nearly 9 times its estimate of €1 000 000 – 1 500 000, a world auction record for the artist.

•James Ensor’s monumental Le désespoir de Pierrot, the most important work of art by the artist to be presented at auction in the last 25 years, sold for € 4 900 000 / £4 400 000 / $6 400 000 (estimate: €2 000 000 – 3 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction.

•Three works of art were acquired by two of the most important French museums in Paris: Les Lilas by Edouard Vuillard and Au Conservatoire by James Ensor was bought by the Museé d’Orsay, and Il Ritornante by Giorgio de Chirico was bought by the Centre Georges Pompidou.

Old Master and 19th Century Paintings and Drawings
The sale of Old Master and 19th Century Paintings and Drawings on 24 February totalled €22 200 000 / £19 700 000 / $28 700 000. 75% of lots sold by lot, and 90% sold by value. Drawings from the 19th century, predominantly portraits by Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones generated significant interest and Portrait d’Alfred et Elisabeth Dedreux by Theodore Gericault, the figurehead of French Romantic painting, was the top lot of the sale and realised €9.0 million / £8 000 000 / $11 600 000 (estimate: €4 000 000 – 6 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction. 5 works of art sold for over €1 000 000 (4 lots for over £1 000 000 / 6 lots over $1 000 000). 6 new world auction records for artists were set.

Cécile Bernard, Ketty Gottardo and Etienne Hellman, specialists in charge of the sale said: “The works of art offered, which ranged over four centuries, from the early 16th Century to the early 20th Century, mirrored this unique collection’s breadth and exceptional diversity. Each of the twenty-four works that were sold had exceptional provenance and an impressive art historical pedigree; thus attracting very active bidding from top international collectors and connoisseurs”.

Major highlights of the sale included:

•Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ elegant Portrait de la comtesse de la Rue, 1890, sold for €2 000 000 / £1 800 000 / $2 600 000 (estimate: €2 000 000 000 – 3 000 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction

•Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait d’homme de profil, which has long been thought to be a self-portrait sold for €577 000 / £513 530 / $746 580 (estimate: €400 000 – 600 000), a world record for a work on paper by the artist at auction.

•Théodore Gericault’s Portrait d’Alfred et Elisabeth Dedreux sold for €9 000 000 / £8 000 000 / $11 600 000 (estimate: €4 000 000 – 6 000 000), a world record for the artist, and a world record for any ‘non-impressionist’ painting from the 19th Century. International collectors and connoisseurs where quick to recognise the significance of this painting, its relevance within Géricault’s oeuvre, its status as an icon of early romantic portraiture, and its particularly unforgettable atmosphere.

• Arnold Böcklin’s Odysseus and Polypheme, 1986, sold for €577 000 / £513 530 / $746 580 (estimate: €400 000 – 600 000), a world record for a work on paper by the artist at auction.

Silver, Miniatures and Objets de Vertu
The afternoon sale of Silver, Miniatures and Objets Vertu on 24 February totaled €19 800 000 / £17 600 000 / $25 700 000 and set a new world auction record for a silver sale. An impressive 100% of the works sold to an audience of over 1000 people. The star lot of the session, which saw over 111 breath-taking lots of silver, silver-gilt and gold come under the hammer, was the Osterode cup, a silver-gilt quadruple cup, 1649, which sold for €853 000 / £759 000 / $1 100 000 (estimate: €100 000 – 150 000). The collection of Hanover cups alone, one of the most exciting collections of early German silver to appear on the market for years, totalled €6 100 000 / £5 400 000 / $7 890 000. Collectors also bid fiercely for drinking cups in the form of lions, bears, horses, deer, a unicorn, bull, swan, owl and even an elephant with soldiers in the castle turret on its back.

Anthony Phillips, International Director, Silver said: “The sale of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s silver collection was a record sale. Not only was it the most valuable silver sale ever in the world, but numerous world records were established. A truly international group of collectors responded positively to the museum-quality pieces of rare silver, silver-gilt and gold and in particular to the collection of Hanover cups”.

Major highlights of the sale included:

• The top lot of the huge standing cups – formerly in a German royal collection was the Osterode cup which sold for €853 000 / £759 170 / $1 103 697 (estimate: €100 000 – 150 000).

• A 16th century silver hunting bear sold for €313 000/ £278 570 / $404 990 (estimate: €80 000 – 120 000).

• An important Louis XIV rose-cut diamond and enamelled gold-mounted presentation miniature, portrait by Jean I Petitot (1607-1691), circa 1680 which fetched €481 000 / £428 090 / $622 366 (estimate: €200 000 – 300 000). This work was acquired by the Louvre.

• The remarkable pair of German gold and enamel tazze, probably Augsburg, circa 1730 which sold for €481 000 / £428 090 / $622 366 (estimate: €200 000-300 000).

20th Century Decorative Arts
The 24 February evening sale of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge’s meticulously selected group of Art Deco treasures, a sophisticated celebration of one of the most brilliant chapters in Parisian cultural life, realised a total of €59 100 000 / £52 600 000 / $76 500 000, a world record for a collection of 20th century decorative arts. 95% of lots sold by lot, and 98% sold by value. The star lot of the evening was Eileen Gray’s ‘Dragons’ armchair, circa 1917-1919, which achieved €21 900 000 / £19 400 000 / $28 300 000, a world record for a work of 20th century decorative art at auction, and a world record for the artist at auction. 10 works of art sold for over €1 000 000 (10 over £1 000 000 and 10 over $1 000 000). The auction saw a total of 12 artist records established.

Philippe Garner, International Head and Sonja Ganne, European Director, 20th Century Decorative Art & Design said: “Tonight’s sale was a homage to the great personalities, designers, collectors and patrons who so marked their era in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and, of course, to the pioneering vision of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé as collectors.”

Leading highlights of the sale included:

• Eileen Gray’s ‘Dragons’ armchair, circa 1917-1919, originally in the collection of Suzanne Talbot, sold for €21 900 000 / £19 400 000 / $28 300 000, a world record for any work of 20th century decorative art at auction, and a world record for the artist at auction (estimate: €2 000 000-3 000 000) . Gray’s unique Enfilade, circa 1915-1917, realised €3 900 000 / £3 500 000 / $5 100 000 (estimate: €3 000 000-5 000 000).

• The Gustave Miklos pair of palm wood and lacquered bronze banquettes, 1928-1929, commissioned by Jacques Doucet, sold for €1 700 000 / £1 500 000 / $2 200 000 (estimate: €2 000 000-3 000 000), a world auction record for the artist.

• Monumental in size and striking in design, the Jean Dunand pair of lacquered and gilt metal vases, 1925, stirred competitive bidding and sold for €3 000 000 / £2 700 000 / $3 900 000 (estimate: €1 000 000-1 500 000), a world record for the artist at auction.

• Works by Claude Lalanne sold for prices that far exceeded their estimates and a spectacular set of fifteen bronze and galvanised copper mirrors, modelled as branches, 1974-1985, sold for €1 800 000 / £1 600 000 / $2 400 000 (estimate: €700 000-1 000 000) , a world record for the artist at auction. Specially commissioned by Yves Saint Laurent, in 1974, they took 11 years to complete.

• The sculptural YSL bar, François-Xavier Lalanne’s first commission from Yves Saint Laurent, and a centrepiece of the library in Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment in rue de Babylone sold for €2 700 000 / £2 400 000 / $3 500 000 (estimate: €700 000-1 000 000), a world record for the artist at auction.

• A pair of floor lamps, 1930 by Eckart Muthesius commissioned by the Maharaja of Indore for his Modernist palace sold for €2 500 000 / £2 200 000 / $3 200 000 (estimate: €400 000-600 000), far exceeding the world record for the artist at auction.

Sculpture and Works of Art
The afternoon session of the Sculpture and Works of Art sale on 25 February realised a total of €24 200 000 / £21 500 000 / $31 300 000. 95% of lots sold by lot, and 98% sold by value. The top lot was a 16th century bronze double head of Janus, unusual in both its iconography and its scale, which attracted committed bidding from a wide range of private and trade buyers and sold for €2 000 000 / £1 800 000 / $2 600 000 (estimate: €100 000 – 200 000), a record for a 16th century French bronze. 5 works of art sold for over €1 000 000 (4 lots for over £1 000 000 / 6 lots over $1 000 000) .

Donald Johnston, Director and Head of European Sculpture, said: “The depth and breadth of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s collection of sculpture was an inspiration. Seen in its entirety and splendour at the public exhibition at the Grand Palais, it captured the interest of a large number of new private buyers from all over the world. This culminated in one of the longest-lasting sculpture sales ever to be held. Over six hours, 278 lots works dating from the 13th to the 19th Century were sold, bringing the sale total to €24 200 000, triple its low estimate.”

Major highlights of the sale included:

• A group of parcel-gilt white painted carved wood allegorical busts representing the four continents, French, from the 18th century sold for €841 000 / £748 000 / $1 000 000 (estimate: €200 000 – 300 000).

• An exquisite silver gilt and ruby mounted rock crystal vase, Milanese, from the late 16th or early 17th century, which was formerly in the French royal collection, sold for €529 000 / £470 810 / $684 473 (estimate: €100 000 – 150 000).

• A bronze figure of Hermaphrodite, attributed to Gianfrancesco Susini sold for €625 000 / £556 250 / $808 688 (estimate: €400 000 – 600 000) , a world record for a bronze by the artist.

• A 17th century German turned ivory cup and cover sold for €457 000 / £406 730 / $591 312 (estimate: €100 000 – 150 000) , a world record for a German turned ivory.

• A Venetian parcel-gilt polychrome circular enamel ewer basin, circa 1500 sold for €421 000 / £374 690 / $544 732 (estimate: €180 000 – 220 000), a world record for any Venetian enamel.

Asian Art, Ceramics, Furniture, Islamic Art and Antiquities
The evening session of the Sculpture and Works of Art sale on 25 February, which included a wide range of Asian Art, Ceramics, Furniture, Islamic Art and Antiquities and conveyed Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s taste for exceptional decorative works, realised a total of €42 800 000 / £38 100 000 / $55 400 000. The top lots were exceptionally rare bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit made for the Zodiac Fountain of the Emperor Qianlong’s Summer Palace in China which each sold for €15 800 000 / £14 000 000 / $20 300 000. 3 works of art sold for over €1 000 000 (3 over £1 000 000 and 5 over $1 000 000) . Other major highlights of the sale included:

• An important gilt and red lacquered wood figure of Buddha, China, Ming dynasty, 16th century, sold for €313 000 / £278 570 / $404 997 (estimate: €30 000 – 40 000) .

• An impressive Roman marble minotaur, circa 1st-2nd century A.D., the focus of the apsidal terrace outside Yves Saint Laurent’s apartment at rue Babylone, sold for €913 000 / £812 570 / $1 600 000 (estimate: €300 000 – 500 000).

• An exquisite over life-sized and imposing male marble torso, circa 1st-2nd century A.D., which stood in the entrance hall of rue Babylone, sold for €1 200 000 / £1 100 000 / $1 600 000 (estimate: €300 000 – 500 000).

• A Louis XIV exotic tapestry, Gobelins, after a painting by Albert Eckhout and Frans Post, possibly woven in 1720 by Jean Lefebvre Fils sold for €553 000 / £492 170 / $715 527 (estimate: €100 000 – 150 000).

• A set of eighteen Italian chairs from the Rococo period from the Palazzo Carrega-Cataldi in Genoa, which surrounded a monumental Art Deco dining table in marble and silvered bronze in rue Babylone, sold for €961 000 / £855 290 / $1 200 000 (estimate: €300 000 – 500 000).

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