This September, Sotheby’s London will host a huge sale from late pop superstar Freddie Mercury, with an estimated 1,500 items to be sold over six auctions. It is expected to fetch more than £6 million ($7.4 million), although lots are still being listed, so totals and estimates may change.
Every item will be taken from Mercury’s London home, called Garden Lodge, which he bequeathed to his friend Mary Austin after she died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. Austin has occupied the house ever since, and has “looked after and loved these objects. Very carefully over the years,” says David MacDonald, head of single owner sales at Sotheby’s London. “I don’t think Mary used things the way Freddie did. I think she saw herself as a curator and a caretaker – that was her broader view.
As a result, McDonald says, visiting the house was like stepping into a time capsule. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “It felt very archaic, going to that place.” The clothes, he says, are still hanging in the closets; Good china and silver appear after Mercury leaves. “On my first day I opened a trunk and inside was a silver Tiffany mustache comb,” he says. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, of course.'”
With only a few exceptions, the contents of the house will be put up for sale. “For many years, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things Freddie discovered and loved so much,” Austin said in a statement. “But the years have passed, and the time has come to make the difficult decision to close this particular chapter of my life.” A portion of the proceeds will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Rock ‘n’ roll royalty
Mercury’s famous crown and accompanying dress, which he wore for the final rendition of God Save the Queen on his last visit with the Queen, is estimated at £60,000 to £80,000. A Sotheby’s designated “military style” jacket, which he wore to his 39th birthday party drag ball in Munich, is estimated to be worth between £10,000 and £15,000. Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase the waistcoat he wore for his last video, These Are the Days of Our Lives in 1991. The silk panels of the waistcoat boast hand-painted depictions of Mercury’s cats, Delilah, Goliath, Oscar, Lily. Romeo and Miko. It is estimated at £5,000 to £7,000.
There is also major music memorabilia, including Mercury’s handwritten manuscript of the song We Are the Champions, which is estimated to be worth between £200,000 and £300,000. His handwritten lyrics to Killer Queen are estimated at £50,000 to £70,000.
Mercury was also a prodigious collector of fine and decorative arts. “There are definitely rock ‘n’ roll elements, but there’s also a considered, serious element, none more serious than his Japanese collection,” MacDonald says. The Garden Lodge, he continues, “has a Japanese room decorated with Japanese art and objects.” Among the lot are Utagawa Hiroshige’s 1857 woodblock print Sudden Shower over the Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Attake, estimated between £30,000 and £50,000, and an embroidered, long-sleeved kimono, estimated between £5,000 and £8,000.
There are also Western items, including an 1880 painting by Jacques Tissot, The Type of Beauty, which is estimated at £400,000 to £600,000, and a Fabergé desk clock, which Mercury kept in his bedroom and is estimated at between £30,000 to £50,000. The house is filled with what MacDonald calls “very nice” furniture. “I think people will be very surprised,” he says.
Typically, even the largest single-owner collections are only on public view for a week or two leading up to the auction. This time, though, “we’re doing an unprecedented job, where we’re closing the building, setting up all the lots, and then everything will be on view from the beginning of August until the sale,” says MacDonald. (There will be touring exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong in June.)
The auction will begin with an evening sale on September 6, followed by live day auctions on September 7 and September 8. The three online sales will go live on September 1 and run through September 11, 12 and 13 respectively. .
“It’s very biographical and very glorious,” says Macdonald. “This is basically Freddy: fantastic in every sense of the word.”
This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.