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August 28 2014

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Yves Saint Laurent’s Final Sale

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The five-volume, 22lb, 200-euro boxed catalogue of the sale of the century had nearly sold out before the doors of the Grand Palais opened to Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent’s friends on Friday night. Supporters—ranging from petites mains to French high society and selected A-listers (plus a few unabashed line-jumpers)—were among the 2,500 guests invited to the evening’s preview of the sumptuous art collection amassed by the duo over 50 years. And that was the “restricted” list. On the block: 733 pieces, including several by 20th-century greats—Picasso, Mondrian, Matisse, Brancusi, and Cézanne. Brancusi’s wooden sculpture Portrait of Mme L.R., the couple’s first major acquisition, was estimated to sell for between 15 and 20 million euros ($18.8 to $25 million at current exchange); one Picasso was estimated for 25-30 million euros. In his foreword to the catalogue, Bergé noted that the collection “lost the greater part of its significance” upon the death of Saint Laurent last June. “Their purpose is to be admired and loved,” he noted, adding that the decision to sell was without regret or nostalgia. Among the few things Bergé is keeping are the first African sculpture they bought as a couple, and the portrait of Saint Laurent by Andy Warhol. Betty Catroux, dressed in black from sunglasses to oxfords, said, “We were so fortunate to live with these objects, but I am like Pierre [Bergé]. I don’t live in nostalgia—it makes you want to cry.” She will attend every moment of the auction, she said. “We are like a family, we stick together.”

Christie’s is handling the sale, which begins Monday night and runs through Wednesday. Proceeds are expected to exceed 300 million euros and will benefit charity, notably an association for AIDS research funded by the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. Still, there is more to come: The Bergé-YSL collection from the Château Gabriel in Normandy will go on the block in November, and it is said that enough “small” inventory remains for a third, more accessibly-priced, sale.

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Dept. of Culture