He started with 40,000 pounds, or about $50,000. Then the competition exploded, with six oars bidding raised in the London salesroom, followed by a flurry of online and telephone bids.
The same piano that Bohemian Rhapsody was composed on. the “A deed,” echoed auctioneer Oliver Parker as bidding paused after it escalated to seven figures. When the price of Parker’s hammer finally dropped to $2.2 million in an online bid, the piano took six minutes to sell, an appropriate length for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
That sale on Wednesday is for Freddie Mercury 1973 Yamaha G2 Baby Grand It was always going to be the high point Sotheby’s auction From around 1,400 items from the personal collection of the charismatic lead singer of British rock band Queen.
Mercury wrote many of Queen’s songs on Yamaha. It was originally estimated to sell for at least $2.5 million at Sotheby’s evening auction featuring 59 of the coveted pieces from the collection provided by the singer’s friend Mary Austin.
The lesser-known items will be sold in two additional live auctions this week, and in three online auctions running through September 13th.
Mercury’s crowded collection of artwork and furniture, as well as handwritten song lyrics, clothing, stage costumes and other personal effects, has remained at Garden Lodge, his neo-Georgian home in west London, since his death in 1991. The singer inherited half of his royalties, with the Garden Lodge and its contents, to Austin, who has lived in the house ever since.
“It was important to me to do it in a way that I felt Freddie would have liked,” Austin, 72, said in a press release about her decision to sell the collection. “There was nothing he loved more than an auction.”
After touring landmarks in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, the entire collection was on display in London for a month. More than 140,000 visitors attended the fair, and the line sometimes extended for nearly a quarter of a mile.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Freddie’s emotions. It’s almost like meeting him. It’s free,” Neil Leonard, 48, a Queen fan since his early teens, said last week as he gazed admiringly at an early draft of the lyrics for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The draft, believed to date from 1974, shows that Mercury manipulated the naming of Queen’s most famous song “Mongolian Rhapsody”.
At Wednesday’s auction, that manuscript was the most valuable of the six lyric manuscripts of the Queen’s classics. Expected to fetch at least $1 million, it sold for $1.7 million to an online bidder to rapturous applause.
Instead of the stony-faced art professionals who usually attend Sotheby’s sales, the audience of more than 400 people was enthusiastic and largely unaccustomed to auction protocols. Each piece was welcomed — even when Eugene von Plas’s 19th-century painting failed to attract initial bids.
The auction lots reflect Mercury’s life as a musician, performer and art collector. He once said he wanted toLeading Victorian life“Surrounded by a wonderful chaos.”
Garden Lodge was crammed with an ornamental mix of portraits of beautiful women from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Furniture in Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Orientalist styles; Luxury jewelry from designers such as Cartier; And many cat-related ornaments. (Owned by Mercury at least 10 cats in his life .)
His taste in Western art may have sometimes bordered on kitsch. But after touring Japan six times with Queen, Mercury became a discerning collector of Japanese woodblock prints, paintings and kimonos. About 20 percent of Sotheby’s sales are tied to Japan, with one of the three online auctions Completely dedicated to the topic.
One of the few museum-worthy works in the Mercury collection was a magnificent 19th-century color woodblock print, “Sudden rain showers over Shin Ohashi and Ataki Bridge” By Utagawa Hiroshige. The picture has influenced many Western artists, including Van Gogh, who painted a copy of it now in the 20th century Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It sold for $368,718 against a low estimate of $35,000.
Often, the magic of the mercury source pushed prices far beyond the levels for similar items on which Sotheby’s estimates were based.
The down payment set the tone: The price for a graffiti-covered door from the Garden Lodge’s exterior wall went up to $521,014 from a phone bidder against a low estimate of just $19,000. This Fabergé case, made of garnet and set in gold in Moscow circa 1890, was later sold to an online auction for $120,234, more than 10 times the estimate. This stately Art Nouveau Wurlitzer jukebox from the Garden Lodge kitchen was purchased for $512,999 by a room bidder.
When the distinctive silver snake bracelet worn by Mercury Music video for “Bohemian Rhapsody” It rose to $881,717, and there were boos and hoots. The official minimum value, for which a bidder bought online, was $9,000.
Of the nearly a dozen concert outfits on display, the bejeweled tiara and crimson ermine-lined gown worn by Mercury on her 1986 Queen’s “Magic” tour were the expected favourites. It sold for $801,560 to Rafael Raisman, a Brazilian fair promoter, who raised his arms in triumph when he acquired the plot.
“We were looking forward to putting together a collection of iconic pieces for use in a special and immersive exhibition,” said Reisman, 53, who bought four more Mercury pieces at the auction. The low estimate was $9,000.
Overall, the sale brought in $15.4 million against a low pre-sale estimate of $6 million. The marathon event took over four hours.
A Queen fan from Bedfordshire, Becca Robbins, has never been to an auction before, but she did bid $57,000 for the rainbow satin jacket Mercury wore on Queen’s “Hot Space” tour in 1982. It sold for $256,499.
“I had it in a split second,” said Robbins, 61, who was wearing a replica of the same multicolored jacket. “But I took something from the fair that you can’t put a price on.”
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