An auction of Pierre Bergé's personal possessions raised $31.3 million, setting a record for a “house sale” at Sotheby's in Paris last week.
Named “From One House to Another,” the sale on Oct. 30 and 31 featured 975 lots from the French businessman's homes in Paris, Normandy, Provence and Morocco, with 95 percent of lots selling at figures above their highest estimate.
It also brought in a record number of participants: The businessman's personal collection drew 2,500 buyers from 72 countries, while the four-day exhibition of the lots attracted 4,000 visitors.
Bergé, who died Sept. 8, 2017, was known to be a passionate art collector. Twelve paintings by French Expressionist Bernard Buffet, who was Bergé's life partner from 1950 to 1958 before he met Yves Saint Laurent, went for 4.4 million euros. Some of them were personally dedicated to Bergé.
Nine Orientalist paintings, chosen by Bergé to decorate his Parisian hôtel particulier on Rue de Babylone, went for 5.5 million euros. A painting by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ, “The Harem's Gate: Souvenir of Cairo,” was sold for 2.4 million euros, setting a record for the French painter.
Other lots included a photograph by Man Ray of writer Marcel Proust on his death bed, two ceramics and a sculpture by Pablo Picasso, a painting by Fernand Léger and a self-portrait by Jean Cocteau.
“Yves Saint Laurent said, ‘One day, people will speak about a Bergé taste.' The resounding triumph of this week is testament to the truth of those words,” said Madison Cox, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves
Saint Laurent and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, who married Bergé in 2017.
“Though there is an inevitable sentimental value attached to the collection, I am conscious of Pierre's own aversion to nostalgia, and am glad that this sale will enable us to accomplish new projects for the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech,” he said in a statement.
In 2009, months after Saint Laurent's death, Bergé sold off the couple's collection of art and furniture. Held at Christie's Paris, the auction raised 374 million euros, making it the most expensive private collection to go under the hammer.
Sotheby's Paris will be holding an auction of Bergé's library on Dec. 14. His collection included books by Cocteau and Jean Giono, as well as tomes reflecting his passion for philosophy, botany and garden design. — FLEUR BURLET
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Some of the lots exhibited during the “Pierre Bergé, From One Home to Another” sale at Sotheby’s Paris.