THIS September, Sotheby’s London will host an expansive sale from the late pop superstar Freddie Mercury, with an estimated 1,500 items to be sold over the course of six auctions. It’s expected to bring in more than £6 million ($7.4 million), although the lots are still being cataloged, so totals and estimates could change.
THE regalia of a global icon, freddie mercury’s incredible stage-worn crown and robe were a commission by his friend and costume designer diana moseley. Indelibly linked to freddie, he wore these for the rendition of “god save the queen” during his final tour with queen in 1986, ‘the magic tour’. Estimate £60,000–80,000. — SOTHEBYS.COM
Every object will be taken from Mr. Mercury’s London home, known as Garden Lodge, which he bequeathed to his friend Mary Austin upon his death from AIDS-related complications in 1991. Ms. Austin has occupied the house ever since, and has “cared and loved these objects very carefully over the years,” says David Macdonald, head of single owner sales at Sotheby’s London. “I don’t think Mary used the things as Freddie did. I think she saw herself as a curator and caretaker — that was her overarching view of it.”
As a result, Mr. Macdonald says, visiting the house was like entering a time capsule. “I’ve never seen something like it,” he says. “It felt very archeological, going into that space.” Clothes, he says, are still hung in closets; fine china and silver appear as Mr. Mercury left it. “On one of my first days I opened a trunk and inside was a silver Tiffany mustache comb,” he says. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, of course.’”
With only a few exceptions, the contents of the house will be put up for sale. “For many years now, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things that Freddie sought out and so loved,” Ms. Austin said in a statement. “But the years have passed, and the time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life.” A portion of the proceeds will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
ROCK ’N’ ROLL ROYALTY
Mr. Mercury’s famous crown and accompanying cloak, which he wore for the finale rendition of “God Save the Queen” during his last tour with Queen is estimated at £60,000 to £80,000. A jacket Sotheby’s has designated “military style,” which he wore for his 39th birthday party drag ball in Munich, is estimated between £10,000 and £15,000. Fans will also have the opportunity to purchase the waistcoat he wore for his final video, These Are the Days of Our Lives in 1991. The waistcoat’s silk panels boast hand-painted depictions of Mercury’s cats, Delilah, Goliath, Oscar, Lily, Romeo, and Miko. It’s estimated at £5,000 to £7,000.
There’s also major music memorabilia, including Mr. Mercury’s handwritten manuscript working lyrics to “We Are the Champions,” which is estimated between £200,000 and £300,000. His handwritten working lyrics to “Killer Queen” carry an estimate of £50,000 to £70,000.
Mr. Mercury was also a prodigious collector of fine and decorative art. “There are definitely rock ’n’ roll elements, but there’s a considered, serious element to it as well, none more serious than his Japanese collection,” says Mr. Macdonald. Garden Lodge, he continues, “has a Japanese Room decorated with Japanese art and objects.” Lots include Utagawa Hiroshige’s 1857 woodblock print Sudden Shower Over the Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, which is estimated between £30,000 and £50,000, and an embroidered, long-sleeve kimono, estimated between £5,000 and £8,000.
There are also Western objects, including an 1880 painting by Jacques Tissot, Type of Beauty, which is estimated from £400,000 to £600,000, and a Fabergé desk clock, which Mr. Mercury kept in his bedroom and is estimated between £30,000 to £50,000. The house is full of what Mr. Macdonald says is “very good” furniture. “I think people will be quite surprised,” he says.
Normally, even the largest single-owner collections are on public view for only a week or two at most in the lead-up to an auction. This time, though, “we’re doing an unprecedented thing, where we’re closing the building, installing all the lots, and then all will be on view from the start of August right through to the sale,” says Mr. Macdonald. (There will be touring exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong in June.)
The auctions will kick off with an evening sale on Sept. 6, followed by live daytime auctions on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. Three online sales will go live on Sept. 1 and run through Sept. 11, 12, and 13, respectively.
“It’s so biographical and so glorious,” says Mr. Macdonald. “It’s basically Freddie: Fabulous in every sense of the word.”— Bloomberg