Pierre Berge, driv­ing force be­hind Yves Saint Lau­rent, dies at 86

Saturday Star - - NEWS -

PARIS: Pierre Berge, an in­flu­en­tial French busi­ness­man, phi­lan­thropist and gay rights ac­tivist who helped build the fash­ion em­pire of his long­time lover Yves Saint Lau­rent, has died. He was 86.

A cul­tural celebrity in France in his own right, Berge was one of France’s lead­ing art pa­trons, as well as serv­ing as chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Yves Saint Lau­rent fash­ion house and help­ing res­cue Le Monde news­pa­per, among his many me­dia in­vest­ments.

He died in his sleep in Sain­tRemy-de-Provence, fol­low­ing a long ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to the Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Lau­rent Foun­da­tion.

Berge was best known for help­ing Saint Lau­rent found his own fash­ion house in 1961 af­ter leav­ing Chris­tian Dior.

“With­out him, the ge­nius of Saint Lau­rent would have never blos­somed in such a shin­ing way,” French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said in homage to Berge.

Macron de­scribed Berge as some­one who men­tored nu­mer­ous artists, “the one in the shad­ows who brought them the con­fi­dence and so­lid­ity that they needed so badly to cre­ate”.

Berge, long a reg­u­lar pres­ence at Saint Lau­rent fash­ion shows and seen as the busi­ness brains be­hind the em­pire, di­rected the house un­til 2002.

He had been plan­ning to in­au­gu­rate an Yves Saint Lau­rent mu­seum in Paris next month, and another in Morocco.

A life­long left-wing ac­tivist who be­friended late So­cial­ist pres­i­dent Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand, Berge used his promi­nence to push for gay rights, in­clud­ing France’s le­gal­i­sa­tion of gay mar­riage in 2013, and cre­at­ing Aids re­search foun­da­tion Si­dac­tion.

Berge headed the Paris Opera – which paid trib­ute yes­ter­day to his “in­sa­tiable cu­rios­ity, some­times rad­i­cal choices” – and fi­nanced pur­chases of works for the Lou­vre mu­seum and ren­o­va­tions of two rooms at the Na­tional Gallery of Lon- don. He was made of­fi­cer in the Le­gion of Hon­our for his con­tri­bu­tions to France.

He and Saint Lau­rent built up a huge art col­lec­tion and prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing the renowned Ma­jorelle Gar­dens in Mar­rakech, where Saint Lau­rent was buried af­ter his death in 2008, and where Berge opened a mu­seum cel­e­brat­ing Ber­ber cul­ture.

“It’s an en­tire part of our lit­er­ary and artis­tic mem­ory that leaves us with Pierre Berge,” Macron wrote. – AP

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