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White glove sale for Pierre Bergé Collection: Highest total for any sale of house contents at Sotheby's France
Charles Knighton Warren, The Nubian Guard. Sold for €321,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

PARIS.- Over the course of the last two days, Sotheby’s Paris gallery has been the stage for a landmark event in the art market. Almost 1,000 exceptional lots from the collection of Pierre Bergé found new homes, totalling €27,474,328 ($31,268,258) with 100% of lots sold and 95% of lots exceeding their high estimates – bringing the great Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent auctions to a close with astounding results. The online auction catalogue for Collection Pierre Bergé: From One Home to Another, together with the individual lot pages, garnered just under 500,000 views from almost 80,000 visitors to the website.

Madison Cox, President of the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent (Paris), the Fondation Jardin Majorelle (Marrakech), and sole heir to Pierre Bergé said: “This evening at Sotheby’s, one chapter has closed and another has opened. Yves Saint Laurent once said, ‘One day, people will speak of a Bergé taste’. The resounding triumph of this week is testament to the truth of those words. Though there is an inevitable sentimental value attached to the collection, I am conscious of Pierre’s own aversion to nostalgia, and am glad that this sale will enable us to accomplish new projects for the Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, both of which were close to his heart and mine. Thanks to Sotheby’s and Pierre Bergé & Associés, this page has turned with elegance, an unfailing sense of enthusiasm and unswerving professionalism. For that, I thank them deeply, in particular Mario Tavella, Chairman of Sotheby’s France and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe and Antoine Godeau, President of Pierre Bergé & Associés.”

Mario Tavella, Chairman of Sotheby’s France and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe added: “What a privilege it has been to orchestrate the final great sale of the legendary Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent collection. It has been a wonderful adventure from start to finish. First it gave us the unique opportunity to step into the four different homes of Pierre Bergé, and in doing so discover his personality and exacting eye. Next came the thrill of putting together a catalogue that paid tribute to his taste, then the staging of the exhibition and - finally - the success of these two days of sales."

Antoine Godeau, President of Pierre Bergé & Associés: “As the auction draws to a close, I am filled with a dual set of emotions. I am proud of the success of the sale, which has exceeded all of our expectations, and yet at the same time, it has been nostalgic to see the things from homes in which I often dined or stayed now dispersed. It gave me great pleasure to observe the reception of the public and collectors to the collection, particularly when the dedicated Orientalist section ended to a bout of spontaneous applause from the room and the Musée du Louvre’s pre-emption of the magnificent canvas by Baron Gros.”

From the moment it was officially announced, the sale of Pierre Bergé’s collection won an ardent following among established collectors and the general public alike. For four days, Sotheby’s Paris served as a bespoke homage to Bergé’s residences, diligently recreating the unique and effervescent style of each one – travelling from France to Morocco across five galleries and over three floors. The exhibition drew in 5,000 visitors, keen to discover and experience the phenomenal collection unveiled in its entirety for the first time.

An hour before the sale, a crowd gathered eagerly awaiting the first hammer falling, pleased to bear witness to a historic moment. With an electrifying atmosphere in the room, each and every lot was the subject of a bidding battle, with thousands of bidders taking part from across the world – from private collectors to great French museums, including the Louvre.



Bergé was an avid collector of Orientalist paintings. The nine stunning works which adorned the walls of his Paris home tonight totalled €5.5 million ($6.2 million) (est. €920,000-1,425,000) and set three auction records. Among the highlights was one of Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Noüy’s most ambitious works, the luminous The Harem’s Gate, Souvenir of Cairo, which set a world auction record for the artist at €2,409,000 / $2,741,659 (est. €400,000-€600,000). Ludwig Deutsch, one of the most important Orientalist painters, was represented in the sale by the commanding Guarding the Palace, 1888, which brought €2,289,000 / $2,605,088 (est. €300,000-€500,000).

At the core of Bergé's collection was a group of twelve paintings by Bernard Buffet, ten of which were given by the artist to Bergé, his companion for eight years between 1950 and 1958. With many bearing the dedication ‘A Pierre Bergé’ on the reverse, they speak of a passionate history that united these two figures during the 1950s, whilst their quality illustrates the definitive period when the artist found his signature style.

These works brought a combined total of €4.4 million / $5 million (est. €900,000 - 1,420,000), led by Couple nu assis, 1956 which achieved €705,000 ($802,353) (est. €80,000-120,000). An anonymous portrait of two nude models frozen in a silence created by their own inability to communication is itself a manifesto of modernity. Further highlights included a self-portrait at the easel from 1956, Autoportrait sur fond noir, which soared to €669,000 ($761,382) (est. €100,000-€150,000) and Bœuf écorché from 1954 – one of the artist’s first tributes to Rembrandt – which sold for €609,000 ($693,097) (est. €200,000-€400,000).

Bergé and Saint Laurent commissioned a plethora of works from Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, having forged a close friendship with the couple after an encounter in the 1960s. In 1999, Claude Lalanne created a monumental bronze mirror for the living room of Villa Mabrouka in Tangiers. This unique piece, inscribed with the initials Y.S.L. on one side, achieved €909,000 / $1,034,524 (est. €200,000 - €300,000). Crafted by François-Xavier Lalanne in 1978, a table centrepiece and six candlesticks in the form of a duck surrounded by water lilies realised €489,000 ($556,526) (est. €200,000-€300,000).

Bergé amassed a stunning collection of objects, his eclectic taste spanning civilisations, eras and genres. There were many art objects alongside the paintings – pieces from Antiquity to the Reniassance.

The collection included a magnificent selection of memento mori pieces, symbolising the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death, which Bergé first began to acquire in in 2008 following the death of Saint Laurent. 36 pieces, with individual estimates starting from €2,000, together totalled €472,250, against a combined pre-sale estimate of €123,500. The most coveted piece was a German polychrome enamelled gold skull-shaped pendant, circa 1630, which sold for almost ten times its estimate at €68,750.

Among the sculptures, an Italian bust of Minerva in green schist, after the Antique, met with considerable demand to achieve €225,000 (est. €8,000-12,000). A monumental royal deer in cast iron, ensconced in the woods surrounding the Datcha in Normandy, galloped past its estimate of €5,000-7,000 to bring €87,500.

Two further highlights were extremely rare medallions executed in 1554 by French painter Léonard Limosin, the most renowned of a family of seven Limoges enamel painters. Bust of Christ and Bust of Virgin turned three-quarters, which sold for €393,000 and €369,000 respectively, against estimates of €40,000-60,000).

A Renaissance man, Bergé amassed a beautiful selection of almost 40 African masks, including a Bambara mask from Mali and an Inuit mask from King Island, Alaska. Together they brought a combined total of €712,314 ($810,678), well above the pre-sale expectations (est. €85,900-135,100).

This sale will be followed by the fourth session in the series, devoted to the contents of Bergé’s prolific library, taking place on 14 December 2018 at Drouot. The auction will feature an array of books and manuscripts dating from the 15th through to the 20th century. While novels feature heavily, Bergé’s passion for philosophy, botany and garden design is also reflected, including important illustrated books, such as Le Propriétaire des choses published in Lyon in 1486. The collection also sheds light on Bergé’s personal life, with books from his friends, Jean Cocteau, Jean Giono and Bernard Buffet, and offers a unique insight into his life-long political commitment, such as Sébastien Faure’s Anarchist Encyclopedia, which was given to the young bibliophile by the widow of the author.

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