Yves Saint Laurent … the best show in town

An YSL creation … Since the 1950s when a tall, slim ‘boy’ with thick hair and thick-lens glasses entered the Paris haute couture scene as designer with Christian Dior, the initials YSL has had many a female heart fill with desire … for a handbag, a pair of shoes, a flacon of parfum, a lipstick […]


An YSL creation …

Since the 1950s when a tall, slim ‘boy’ with thick hair and thick-lens glasses entered the Paris haute couture scene as designer with Christian Dior, the initials YSL has had many a female heart fill with desire … for a handbag, a pair of shoes, a flacon of parfum, a lipstick … a black silk pants suit, all bearing the YSL logo.

This weekend here in Paris those initials are yet again filling hearts with desire, male and female – or rather not with desire, but envy.

For the possessions of the late designer – he died aged 70 in June 2008 of a malignant brain tumor – have gone on show here before Christie’s is to auction them.

Dubbed ‘the best show in town’ the items – there are 733 – are on display under the glass dome of the Grand Palais where the triumphant ‘Picasso and the Great Masters’ exhibition has just drawn to a close.

As Jonathan Rendell, vice-president of Christie’s America said: “In 30 years in the auction business, I’ve never seen anything as good as this. It’s really glamorous … real luxury.”

Christie’s who has announced that it has to pay off 300 employees (the global financial crisis you know) expects the auction which will last three days to fetch between €200/300 million ($250/380 million / £265/270 million). Not only will museums be bidding, but so too private collectors.

What will go under the hammer?

To name just a couple of the items.

A wooden sculpture by Romania’s Constantin Brancusi; it is expected to fetch between €15/30 million ($19/37 million / £20/26 million); Matisse’s ‘Le Danseur’ which could fetch between €4/5 million ($5/7.5 million / £6/8 million).

Added to these are numerous sculptures from ancient Egypt and Rome and 17th century Italy, medieval ivory crucifixes, a Picasso, an Ingres, his Art Deco furniture which includes his bed, bird-shaped chairs by French artist François-Xavier Lalanne with an estimated value of between €20,000/30,000 each and many more porcelain bowls and silver cups and the Piet Mondrian 1922 painting ‘Composition in Blue, Red, Yellow and Black’ which had inspired YSL’s legendary 1965 ‘shift’ dress. And also two bronze animal heads that China wants withdrawn from the auction and returned to Beijing; the heads had disappeared from a Beijing palace in 1860.

Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime lover, Pierre Bergé, amassed the items these past 50 years.

Said Monsieur Bergé, who is putting the items up for auction: “I cannot imagine pursuing my passion as a collector without Yves.” He said that the collection has since the designer death “lost the greater part of its significance”.

The proceeds from the auction will go to the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation to help AIDS medical research.

It took 150 workers a week to set out the items. And one needs at least four hours of queuing to get to see it.

I wonder what Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s insurance bill used to come to, and what Christie’s must be now?

I also wonder how they had managed to get a char lady? Imagine having had to dust that lot; the fear of knocking something over …

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses to “Yves Saint Laurent … the best show in town”

  1. 3
    Anonymous Says:

    I am certain few knew YSL was this wealthy. What a shopper ! I wonder if he and his companion did not feel that they were living in a museum. Some days at least. And then they must have felt like getting rid of the clutter.

    I now also wonder who will have the money to buy such expensive objects.

    Daniel from New York ex-Paris

  2. 2
    Satima Flavell Says:

    Back in the 60s, I had one of those Mondrian dresses – no doubt snitched from M. Saint-Laurent’s design. But I had no idea he actually owned the painting!

  3. 1
    Jo Says:

    Incroyable. I cannot imagine living with all that stuff anyway. I didn’t know YSL had died last year, nor did I know he was gay, but then I don’t really keep up with high fashion. Never been able to afford it anyway and never had the figure either.

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