Yves Saint Laurent's "Sale of the Century"
From the Picassos that graced his walls to historic artifacts and hundreds of sculptures, the artwork that inspired late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent went on display over the weekend and now is set to be auctioned.
Billed as "the sale of the century," the auction of the 733-piece collection will disperse in three days a collection that took Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge half a century to assemble.
Highlights include Piet Mondrian's 1922 painting "Composition in Blue, Red, Yellow and Black," whose squares of saturated colors inspired Saint Laurent's legendary 1965 shift dress; a wooden sculpture by Romanian Constantin Brancusi that is expected to sell for $19 million-$25 million; and a pair of bronze animal heads that disappeared from a Beijing palace in 1860 and that China now wants removed from the auction and returned.
The lot that's expected to fetch the highest price is a 1914-1915 Picasso painting of a guitar, "Instruments de musique sur un gueridon," (Musical Instruments on a Table) from the Spanish artist's cubist period. The canvas features angular splotches of red, greens and mustard yellow against a somber gray background and is the last large-format painting from the period still in private hands, auction house Christie's said. The Picasso is estimated at $32 million-$38 million.
Other lots include sculptures from ancient Egypt and Rome and 17th century Italy, ivory crucifixes and silver German beer steins that covered every available surface of Saint Laurent's homes, as well as his Art Deco furniture and even his bed.
The sale is expected to gross $250 million-$380 million. A large portion of the proceeds is to go to a foundation to support AIDS research.
Saint Laurent and Berge started collecting art in the 1950s, when the designer catapulted to fame at the Paris fashion house Christian Dior. As their fortunes grew with the launch of Yves Saint Laurent's own line, they continued to collect, working largely with private dealers and buying what caught their eye.
Some of the pieces eventually found their way onto the catwalk as the inspiration for Saint Laurent's collections. Rhododendron-shaped leaf appliques on a flowing evening gown from the designer's winter 1980 collection paid homage to the work of Matisse, whose 1937-1938 collage "Le Danseur" is expected to sell for $5 million-$7.5 million at the sale.
One of the most influential and enduring designers of the 20th century, Saint Laurent is credited with helping empower women by reinventing pants as a sleek, elegant staple of the female wardrobe. He is also remembered for his ladies' tuxedo, see-through blouses, safari jackets and glamorous gowns that remain stylish decades after they hit the catwalks.
Luxury company the Gucci Group acquired the Yves Saint Laurent brand in 1999.
Berge has said he made the decision to sell the collection after Saint Laurent's death because without him, "it has lost the greater part of its significance."
Photos: Getty Images
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