PARIS — For anyone who missed out on what has gone down in auction history as the sale of the century, there’s a new opportunity to snap up personal possessions of Pierre Bergé, the partner of Yves Saint Laurent and a powerhouse figure in French culture and politics.
In a series of sales beginning this fall, Sotheby’s and Pierre Bergé & Associés will sell off hundreds of items spanning from Antiquity to modern art culled from Bergé’s homes in Paris, Normandy, Provence and Morocco.
In 2009, mere months after Saint Laurent’s death from brain cancer, Bergé sold off the treasure trove of priceless art and furniture collected by the couple. The auction raised 374 million euros, making it the most expensive private collection ever to go under the hammer, according to Christie’s.
Following Bergé’s death last September, his widower Madison Cox, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, is upholding the tradition by putting up his possessions for auction. A significant part of the proceeds from the sales will benefit the two foundations.
“A passionate and voracious collector his entire life, Pierre Bergé had a unique, heartfelt and genuine relationship with the multitude of objects, books, and works of art with which he personally chose to surround himself,” Cox said in a statement.
“Pierre continued to collect passionately and tirelessly until the very end of his life. The contents of his various residences, while well documented, remained part of his private universe towards the latter part of his life. It is with a great sense of responsibility that the decisions were made to share them at this sale, and to continue the Pierre Bergé legacy,” he added.
Some 800 lots will go on show in Sotheby’s newly-refurbished spaces at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris from Oct. 29 to 31. A separate auction of books and manuscripts from Bergé’s extensive library is scheduled for December, with further sales to be held in 2019, Sotheby’s said.
Among the top lots are 10 paintings by Bernard Buffet, who was Bergé’s partner before he met Saint Laurent. Long in Bergé’s private collection, they are currently on show at the Musée Estrine in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Bergé was staying at the time of his death.
The auction of books and manuscripts – the fourth since December 2015 – will range from novels to books reflecting Bergé’s passion for philosophy, botany and garden design. These include illustrated tomes, such as “Le Propriétaire des choses,” published in 1486, and books from friends such as Jean Cocteau and Jean Giono.
Mario Tavella, chairman of Sotheby’s France and Sotheby’s Europe, indicated the auction house expects strong interest in the sale, thanks to the exceptional provenance of the pieces.
“Although I never had the opportunity to get to know Pierre Bergé well, this sale has allowed me to enter his world and discover with wonder his personality, exquisite taste, and the intellectual rigor that shines through all his choices,” he said.
For the Christie’s auction in February 2009, Saint Laurent and Bergé’s spectacular apartment at 55 Rue de Babylone was dismantled and reassembled at the Grand Palais, the enormous glass-covered hall used for the World Exposition in Paris.
For the public exhibit before the sale, lines snaked around the venue for days as members of the public vied for a glimpse of the couple’s magnificent selection of Art Deco furniture, priceless paintings and ancient Chinese statues.
Bergé gave each of his properties a distinct identity in keeping with their history and location, Sotheby’s noted.
His Paris residence on Rue Bonaparte was decorated by François-Joseph Graff and Milanese designers Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori, while the datcha in the park of the Château Gabriel, the 19th-century villa in Normandy formerly owned by Saint Laurent, was decorated by Jacques Grange in a style evoking the Ballets Russes.
Grange also designed the interiors for the Mas Théo in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and the Villa Mabrouka in Tangiers, Pierre Bergé’s secret hideaway in Morocco.