Sunday, February 8, 2009

Collection of Yves Saint Laurent And Pierre Berge Sale at Christie's

Yves Saint Laurent in the grand salon of his apartment on Rue de Babylone with model Sibyl Buck, October 27, 1995. They are surrounded by the Surrealist-period Léger painting The Black Profile (1928), sold by the artist’s widow, and Jean Dunand’s 1925 Art Deco brass-and-lacquer vase, among the treasures to be auctioned at the Grand Palais, in Paris, February 23 to 25. By Jean-Marie Perier/From Photos12/Polaris.
Saint Laurent’s bedroom desk, with found-object Y’s alongside his trademark spectacles. Photograph by Pascal Chevallier.

A first-century-A.D. Roman marble torso in the Grange-designed entrance hall of Saint Laurent’s apartment. Photograph by Pascal Chevallier.

Butler Adil Debdoubi adjusts the Jacques Grange–designed curtains in Saint Laurent’s grand salon, which features artworks expected to fetch individually up to $50 million at auction: from left, the 1914–17 Brancusi wooden sculpture Madame L.R., a Gustave Miklos palmwood-and-red-lacquer stool, Picasso’s 1914 still life in oil and sand, Musical Instruments on a Table, above a late Cézanne watercolor of Mont Sainte-Victoire, an Eileen Gray circa 1920 dragon chair estimated at $4 to $6 million (in the foreground), Léger’s classicizing 1921 Cup of Tea (between the windows), and, at right, Vuillard’s circa 1891 Daydreaming Mary and Her Mother. Photograph by Pascal Chevallier.

A Mondrian dress at YSL’s retrospective, final haute couture show in 2002 at Paris’s Pompidou Center. Photograph by Pascal Chevallier.


IN LIFE, Yves Saint Laurent attracted ecstatic reviews from fashion editors with his often era-defining styles. In death, his art collection has done no worse.

Yesterday, the passions and obsessions of the late fashion designer and his long-term partner, Pierre Berge, went on display at Christie's in London in advance of being auctioned in Paris next month. It is estimated the auction will fetch $A600 million, with all proceeds going to scientific and AIDS research.

Already the art world has managed to do what few others have accomplished and almost outdo the fashion press in terms of hyperbole. Yesterday Christie's president Jussi Pylkkanen said it was "the greatest exhibition we've ever organised, or at least in my time here".

Others have described the 700 lots — which range from 1st-century Roman marble torsos to golden goblets so large they are exceeded in size only by ones in the Kremlin, to seminal post-Impressionist paintings — as "brilliant" and "a vital record of art". Donald Johnston of Christie's said: "This is the kind of collection that, in my job, you dream of finding."

Saint Laurent died last June, aged 71, after long-term health problems. Berge, 78, announced in July that he would sell most of the extensive collection they built up together for almost half a century. Asked recently why he was selling, he replied simply: "Yves Saint Laurent is dead. The collection doesn't mean anything any more."

The whole collection will be on display at the Grand Palais in Paris three days before the sale at the end of next month. While only a small part of the collection is on show in London,the wide-ranging taste of Saint Laurent and Berge is apparent.

Matisse's Nu au bord de la mer, valued at up to $A12 million, hangs on one side, a gorgeous study of a naked woman standing on a stretch of soft, green grass.

Next to it is a large portrait by Thomas Gainsborough, Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci holding a musical score, valued at up to $A1.2 million, in which a pompous-looking young man with curled hair and ruffled cuffs clutches a sheet of music.

Incredibly, Berge and Saint Laurent did not use guides to buying art, relying instead on their personal taste, which proved remarkably prescient. "In the 1970s, no one was interested in Brancusi or Mondrian, but Saint Laurent and Berge were buying them," said Thomas Seydoux of Christie's. "They were buying artists and genres before they were fashionable. They were absolutely ahead of their game, and I think they enjoyed that."

Although it is impossible to know how much Berge and Saint Laurent spent on collecting art, they were certainly serious collectors. "They were prepared to pay the price for what they liked. But they would never have seen it as an investment," said Philippe Garner of Christie's.

It is tempting to find parallels between the art Saint Laurent collected and the fashions he made. The leopard-skin banquettes by Gustave Miklos look like the furniture version of Saint Laurent's more louche dresses from the '70s.

But, ultimately, the collection reveals a mind that loved all things beautiful, who saw no dividing line between the Paris runways and the world's great galleries. As well as being a record of art throughout the centuries, it is also the record of a partnership that was, until the end, in perfect harmony.

Berge recently claimed that, in all their years together, they never disagreed about what art to buy. "In life, from time to time, yes. But about art? Never!"

pictures from
and and hedi slimane wallpaper magazine

No comments: