Chinese protests aside, huge queues are expected at the Grand Palais, which will be open to the public for two-and-a-half days, from 9 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday before the three-day sale begins Monday evening.
Private viewings have also been scheduled, including a soiree Friday for Bergé’s friends, former Saint Laurent couture staff, friends of the foundation and the AIDS charity Sidaction, plus a host of designers. Members of American Friends of the Louvre will also be treated to a private viewing Monday, followed by a Champagne cocktail hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Estissac Pierre-Louis and Sabine de La Rochefoucauld at their home near the Grand Palais.
Christie’s has nearly sold out of the 6,000 copies of the whopping 1,800-page, 10-kilogram, $290 catalogue box set, which includes portraits of Saint Laurent and Bergé plus photographs of the oeuvres juxtaposed in their various homes. It also includes essays by art historians and personal accounts from the gallery owners who helped build the collection.
Alain Tarcia recalls how Saint Laurent and Bergé bought “The Portrait of Mme L.R.” by Brancusi on the spot without any hesitation or negotiation. “Of course I was very surprised by how fast they made their decision,” Tarcia relates. “It’s not every day a customer comes into your gallery and walks out with a Brancusi.”
Brothers Nicolas and Alexis Kugel, meanwhile, tell how Saint Laurent famously challenged them. “One day he brought us a photograph of Marie-Laure de Noailles, taken by Willy Maywald, showing her seated next to a gueridon overloaded with gold boxes, Augsburg animals, Renaissance clocks and Paduan bronzes.”
Saint Laurent apparently declared himself obsessed with the image. “I have made you a blow up of the gueridon. I would like to create a similar ensemble.”
Divided into five categories, first under the hammer Monday is Impressionist and modern art. Tuesday will start with Old Master and 19th-century paintings, followed by silver and miniatures, then Art Deco of the 20th century for the evening. The final sale will include sculptures, archeology, furniture and Asian art. Christie’s will man 100 phone lines while bids can also be placed via the Internet.
Proceeds from the sale, meanwhile, will be donated. Saint Laurent bequeathed his half of the collection to the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, while Bergé will put his share toward a new foundation he’s created to fight AIDS.
For collectors of Saint Laurent’s better-known passion, an auction of another kind takes place next week, timed to coincide with the art sale.
Around 900 vintage Saint Laurent pieces, from dresses, suits and furs to jewelry, dating from 1962 to 2002, will go under the hammer at Drouot Richelieu auction house. Highlights include a swirl-printed dress from the fall-winter 1979 Homage to Picasso and Diaghilev collection, which is expected to fetch between 5,000 and 6,000 euros, or $6,300 and $7,600. The pieces will be displayed next Tuesday and Wednesday, with the sale itself on Thursday and Friday.