Sotheby’s sees record attendance at Freddie Mercury exhibition – ahead of auction of the Queen star’s piano on which he composed hits including Bohemian Rhapsody and other belongings
- Freddie Mercury’s baby grand piano is among items going under the hammer
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A number of Freddie Mercury’s personal belongings are set to go under the hammer this week at an auction at Sotheby’s in London.
The sale, which will include the Queen frontman’s baby grand piano, on which he composed hits including Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen and Don’t Stop Me Now will take place on September 6.
Sotheby’s Freddie Mercury specialist David Macdonald appeared on Lorraine today to talk about the instrument, revealing that the piano will go on sale without reserve – meaning anyone can participate in the sale.
It follows a month-long exhibition, called Freddie Mercury ‘A World of his Own’, featuring a never-before-seen private collection of over 1,400 of the star’s personal possessions.
More than 130,056 guests have visited the London exhibition to see the collection – with the huge numbers exceeding expectations.
A huge sale of personal items belonging to Freddie Mercury (pictured, right) will go on sale at Sotheby’s in London this week (pictured with actor Jane Seymour, left)
The exhibition has attracted record-breaking crowds (pictured) according to the auction house, with more than 130,056 guests visiting the London event
A huge range of items will be on offer, from the star’s piano and early drafts of his songs, to costume pieces like his infamous crown and cloak (pictured)
Ahead of its London run, highlights of the collection were shown in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
The exhibition, which is free to the public, will close on September 5, on what would have been Mercury’s 77th birthday.
According to Sotheby’s, the exhibition has ‘sparked heartwarming moments’, including one last week when the 400m long, round-the-block queue broke spontaneously into a chorus of ‘We Will Rock You’ in celebration of Freddie.
Bids flooding in
With sales set to begin on Wednesday, so far, more than 535,000, people have viewed the auction pages on Sotheby’s website and placed more than 17,000 bids.
The items proving most popular include:
• Freddie’s small, but mighty moustache comb by Tiffany & Co. has attracted 53 bids so far. The bid currently stands at £30,000, exceeding its original estimate of £400 – 600 by 50 times.
• Bidding on an acoustic guitar owned by Mercury for two decades is currently at £20,000 – 10 times its original £2,000-3,000 estimate
• Mercury’s collection of chopsticks (hashi), one of the lowest priced lots in the sale, with an estimate of £40-60, has so far drawn in 41 bids; with bidding currently standing at £1,100.
• Mercury’s barware has attracted 38 bids so far.
• There have been a further 27 bids on a 19th century Japanese ewer resembling a teapot, 39 bids on his comic book collection, 44 bids on his membership cards for London clubs including The Embassy, a ground-breaking gay nightclub in London’s West End, 23 bids on his personal record collection and 35 bids on a 1930s French metronome.
Speaking about the exhibit, Charles F. Stewart, Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘We are thrilled to have reimagined our London galleries in order to share such an intimate insight into the world of Freddie Mercury with so many of his fans.
‘The overwhelming popularity of this exhibition – the most visitors in our history – demonstrates the continued desire to discover fascinating objects with exceptional and unique provenance.’
Now, Sotheby’s says, Mary Austin, best friend and ‘soulmate’ of Freddie, who is auctioning the items, has ‘decided that Freddie’s adored Yamaha Baby Grand Piano, which she has so treasured over the years, should now be offered without reserve, so as to open the possibility of bidding to a broader base of potential buyers’.
She is said to hope that the instrument, which is expected to reach between £2-3 million, will ‘go a home where it will be loved, cherished and enjoyed to the full’.
Previously unseen drafts of a number of the musician’s songs, including Somebody to Love and We are the Champions, will also go under the hammer during the evening sale on September 6.
Among the other items on offer during the event will be Freddie’s most iconic stage-worn costumes: from his infamous crown and cloak to the ivory catsuit made for the BoRhap video in 1975, as well as an array of precious little things, including a Cartier onyx and diamond ring brooch gifted to Freddie by Elton John
James Jacques Tissot’s exquisite portrait, Type of Beauty, the last work of art Freddie bought is also among the lots, as is Freddie’s 1941 Wurlitzer Jukebox.
An archive of personalized photographs of – or taken by – Freddie will also go under the hammer, alongside many other items.
According to Gabriel Heaton, a specialist at the auction house: ‘We have here working lyrics for pretty much every song that Freddie Mercury wrote through the 1970s.
‘We’ve got extensive working drafts that really showed how songs developed, how they changed, how they took shape in the most wonderful way.’
Speaking about the sale of the piano, Heaton said: ‘Of all the objects that he had, this is the one that meant the most to him.’
With such a major range of person items on offer, including a pair of the star’s chopsticks and a sewing kit, smaller items like these are priced starting at £100 each.
In a statement about the auction, fellow musician Elton John said: ‘I miss Freddie to this day.
Freddie Mercury’s baby grand piano, on which he composed a number of his hits, will be going under the hammer
Also on offer at the highly anticipated auction this week are a number of the performer’s iconic costumes
The sale, which includes items as vast as iconic stage costumes (pictured) as well as personal items like Freddie’s moustache comb, has garnered huge interest
Fans of the musician have been able to see a huge array of his belongings during an exhibition in central London at Sotheby’s
‘He was a wonderful friend – more full of love and life than anyone I’ve ever met – as well as a brilliant performer whose music has inspired and thrilled millions.
‘Freddie and I shared a love of collecting and exchanged many gifts over the years, including some in this brilliant auction.
‘He was kind, generous and funny and it is a tragedy that AIDS took him from the world much too soon.
‘I am grateful to Mary for so lovingly curating his home, and for donating the proceeds from my gifts to Freddie to my Foundation, which continues to fight AIDS around the world, and I hope that would make Freddie smile.’
Proceeds from the sale of six items – some gifts from Elton to Freddie, others reminders of their friendship – will be donated to the Elton John Aids Foundation, in recognition of the close bond between the two musicians.
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