Saint Laurent art auction _'sale of the century'

Posted by MaggieYang on 24. Feb 2009

PARIS – From the Picassos that graced his walls to historic artifacts and hundreds of sculptures, the artwork that inspired late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent went on display Saturday, three days before it is auctioned.

Billed as "the sale of the century," the auction of the 733-piece collection will disperse in three days a collection that took Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge half a century to amass.

Highlights include Piet Mondrian's 1922 painting "Composition in Blue, Red, Yellow and Black," whose squares of saturated colors inspired Saint Laurent's legendary 1965 shift dress; a wooden sculpture by Romanian Constantin Brancusi that is expected to sell for €15 million-€20 million ($19 million-$25 million); and a pair of bronze animal heads that disappeared from a Beijing palace in 1860 and that China now wants removed from the auction and returned.

The lot that's expected to fetch the highest price is a 1914-1915 Picasso painting of a guitar, "Instruments de musique sur un gueridon," (Musical Instruments on a Table) from the Spanish artist's cubist period. The canvas features angular splotches of red, greens and mustard yellow against a somber gray background and is the last large-format painting from the period still in private hands, auction house Christie's said.

The Picasso is estimated at €25 million-€30 million ($32 million-$38 million).

Other lots include sculptures from ancient Egypt and Rome and 17th century Italy, ivory crucifixes and silver German beer steins that covered every available surface of Saint Laurent's homes, as well as his Art Deco furniture and even his bed.

The sale is expected to gross €200 million-€300 million ($250 million-$380 million). A large portion of the proceeds is to go to a foundation to support AIDS research.

Saint Laurent died in June at age 71 after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

"In 30 years in the auction business, I've never seen anything as good as this," said Jonathan Rendell, vice president of Christie's America. Saint Laurent and Berge "collected at the very top of every area that they bought in, the very best Modernist pictures, the very best collection of Art Deco that I've ever seen come to sale, the German silver, the cameos."

"It's really glamorous ... real luxury. The way they lived was extraordinary," Rendell said.

A pre-auction exhibition at the Grand Palais divides the pieces according to theme, although in their homes, Berge and Saint Laurent mixed it up, placing a Picasso cubist painting above a delicate portrait by French neoclassical painter Ingres and covering Art Deco side tables with sculptures, intricate serving bowls and elaborate silver cups made between the 1st and 20th centuries.

Snakes fascinated Saint Laurent and they adorn all sorts or items, slithering up


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