“Make way — I want to see the Versace!” Marjorie Gubelmann cried Tuesday night as she ambled into Sotheby’s galleries for a glimpse of Gianni Versace’s personal collection of fine art, furnishings and fashion. In honor of the auction house’s new collectors, Natasha Elkon and Pete Hathaway hosted a private dinner and pre-auction viewing.
The colorful opulence of the late designer’s furnishings may have seemed a bit excessive to a group of girls whose decorators tend toward understatement, but Emilia Fanjul, Gigi Mortimer and Ghislaine Maxwell turned up just the same — out of intense curiosity.
“It’s all so over-the-top,” Bettina Zilkha said, marveling at her surroundings: six galleries chock full of Versace’s 18th- and 19th-century furniture, decorations, paintings, silver and porcelain.
“It’s a little racy for me,” Natalie Leeds admitted.
But then raciness has always been part of the Versace aesthetic and that’s what lured many of the buyers who turned up at the three-day auction, which began on Thursday evening. It drew both serious art collectors and those who are simply mesmerized by Versace’s way with rococo. While the auction brought in more than $10 million, topping any estimates made by the house, the lots created by the designer himself, including dresses, sketches and furniture, were the most highly coveted.
A pair of Versace-designed ottoman chairs, upholstered in a bright Mandarin pattern, were expected to sell for $6,000 to $8,000, but bids climbed to $75,000. Even pieces that Versace didn’t design but simply made his own, like a writing table and chair reupholstered in a Versace-print fabric, surpassed expectations. The set was expected to pull in $10,000 to $15,000 and went for $41,000.
Proceeds from the sale of 17 clothing lots benefited PAX, the National Center for Victims of Crimes and a scholarship in the designer’s name at the Fashion Institute of Technology.