Freddie Mercury’s personal items are heading to auction. But they’re coming to L.A. first
During the close of his final performance with Queen in 1986, Freddie Mercury sauntered across the stage at Knebworth Park and held aloft a bejeweled crown while wearing a red fur cloak draped over his shoulder.
Fans in the packed arena north of London serenaded the band with the United Kingdom’s national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” as the legendary group and Mercury, donning the royal fit, walked off stage.
In September, both the crown and cloak will be among the estimated 1,500 items that once belonged to the late rock pioneer that are set to be auctioned off. The items, preserved for 30 years in the Mercury’s Garden Lodge home, will be made available at a series of online estate sales that are expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Sotheby’s, the auction house handling the sale.
The crown, a replica of St. Edward’s Crown (to be worn by King Charles III during his forthcoming coronation), and accompanying cloak alone are expected to sell for an estimated $100,000.
Before the six auctions begin in September, some of the highlighted items from the collection will be showcased at various Sotheby’s galleries across the globe, including a local exhibition from June 14 to 18 at Sotheby’s in Beverly Hills. Other stops include New York and Hong Kong. The main exhibition, which features the full collection, launches in London on Aug. 4.
“The collection takes you deeper within the individual and the man I knew,” Mary Austin, Mercury’s longtime friend, told BBC News. Mercury left his estate to Austin when he died at 45 from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1991.
“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. 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,” Austin said in a statement distributed by Sotheby’s. “It was important to me to do this in a way that I felt Freddie would have loved, and there was nothing he loved more than an auction.”
Austin’s inheritance includes Mercury’s lavish mansion in the upscale Kensington neighborhood of London, which she kept mostlyundisturbed since he died there. She also praised her friend as an “incredible and intelligent collector who showed us that there is beauty and fun and conversation to be found in everything.”
Paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and James Jacques Tissot filled Mercury’s Garden Lodge, along with an ornate vase lamp and clock, a kimono, a vintage rotary phone and Mercury’s 1975 Martin D-35 Acoustic Guitar, all of which are a part of the auction.
Other items in the collection set for sale are handwritten musical sheets and working lyrics to some of Queen’s most popular hits, such as “Killer Queen” and classic rock anthem “We are the Champions.” The documents are expected to sell for an estimated $90,000 and almost a quarter of a million dollars, respectively.
“You’re looking at the process of the artist, of work in progress,” Austin said in the BBC interview. “The crossings out, the rethinking, the reformatting.”
A Mercury fan with a smaller budget might consider the rocker’s silver Tiffany & Co. mustache comb, which is expected to set bidders back somewhere between $500 and $750.
And if that’s still too steep, admirers can instead opt to see the items in person during the touring exhibitions.
Sotheby’s said that the separate sales will focus on Mercury “On Stage,” the musician “At Home,” his “deep love of Japan” and “an eclectic array of the curious and everyday objects that made Mercury smile.”
Austin will be donating a portion of the proceeds to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation, which both fund projects addressing HIV/AIDS. The Mercury organization was established by Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor and their manager Jim Beach the year after Mercury’s death. Rock superstar and philanthropist Elton John was also a close friend of Mercury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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