Saint Laurent's everyday objects to be auctioned

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 2:26 PM

The 18th century porcelain Yves Saint Laurent ate from, a Cartier watch he used to wear, the leopard-print couches and gilded chairs he lounged on: It's all to hit the auction blocks as the late French couturier's longtime partner liquidates their art-and-knicknack-filled residences.

The sale, organized by Christie's from Nov. 17 to 20, is the follow-up to the blockbuster auction earlier this year of Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Berge's extensive art collection. Billed as "the sale of the century," the February auction included masterpieces by Picasso, Ingres and Mondrian and amassed euro342 million.

This time around, though, it's not the chef d'oeuvres but the thousands of workaday objects _ including furniture, lamps, rugs and cutlery _ that are to be disbursed.

Highlights include a 1949 gouache painting by Fernand Leger estimated at euro50,000-euro70,000 ($75,000-$105,000), a pair of gilded armchairs specially ordered by Queen Hortense of Holland for a 1812 costume ball that are expected to fetch euro7,000-euro9,000 and elaborate crystal chandeliers estimated at euro30,000-euro50,000.

The show is also full of quirky items that are likely to have more recession-friendly prices. A set of salt shakers, including ones shaped like pointy-eared dogs, are estimated at euro300-euro500. Glass frames containing preserved beetles or butterflies are expected to fetch about euro100 a piece. A blotter with a hand-shaped handle made from antler is also estimated at euro100.

Other strange offerings include a caviar service set made from shells with diminutive mother-of-pearl knives, bone-handled magnifying glasses, a Malian step ladder, a 19th century billiard table in walnut and fancy daggers of all shapes and sizes. Mundane offerings are to include yellow cotton curtains, pots and pans and metal lawn chairs.

Many of the objects lack the kind of detailed information about their place and date of origin that accompanied the lots at the February sale.

"This was really a living collection built around comfort and the home," Christie's furniture specialist Simon de Monicault told The Associated Press during a preview on Tuesday. "They kept very little information about where these objects came from."

"It's really very intimate and very personal and very different from the first auction, which was made up of museum-quality pieces," said Monicault. "Beyond the usual collectors, we expect to get bidders who are seduced by the idea of owning something that was once used by Saint Laurent but maybe couldn't afford anything at the first sale."

Still, Monicault said the fact that the lots once belonged to Saint Laurent was not taken into account in establishing the estimates and warned that it could drive prices up.

Among a handful of mythical 20th century designers, Saint Laurent is widely credited with modernizing women's wardrobes by popularizing ladies' pants. Saint Laurent died in 2008, aged 71, after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

Soon after his death, Saint Laurent's business and romantic partner Berge decided to liquidate the collection the two men spent decades painstakingly amassing _ guided in large part soley by their own aesthetic. The profits from the November sales are to help fund the fight against AIDS.

The objects from this month's sale were taken from Saint Laurent's legendary Left Bank apartment on rue Babylon, his office, an apartment belonging to Berge and the couple's Chateau Gabriel in Normandy.

Photos of how the objects were arranged in the houses _ where paintings, sculptures, boxes, bowls and vases covered virtually every horizontal surface _ dot the halls of Christie's Paris headquarters, where the collection on display ahead of the four-day auction. The exhibit opens to the public from Thursday through next Monday.