The Show Must Go On: Freddie Mercury at the Sotheby’s

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Category Culture, People
Date September 8 2023
Reading Time 3 min.

The Show Must Go On: Freddie Mercury at the Sotheby’s

The first day of the auction of Freddie Mercury’s most treasured possessions ended on Wednesday evening with an astounding success, by far exceeding estimators’ predictions. The auction with a commercially dramatic title “A World of His Own” has become one of the most anticipated ones in the recent history and not just for Sotheby’s but for the whole world.

With the 59 lots on offer and the pre-sale estimate of £4.8m-£7.2m, which has totalled to £12.2m, this auction was a real testament to our modern, pop-culture-filled reality — the enduring allure of the Queen’s legendary frontman has undoubtedly proven the power of fame in today’s market.

One of many kimonos worn by Mercury

Prior to the auction, the collection of Freddie Mercury’s treasures were exhibited to the general public between 1st-5th September. During this time more than 140,000 visitors attended the exhibition, with the lines stretching almost a quarter-mile. It has been reported that some of the most unprepared guests have found it impossible to get in and quite a few people relied on their friends and acquaintances, who joined in earlier and helped them to skip the line. At the same time, the Wednesday evening sale had attracted 2,000 registrations, which is an unprecedented record for Sotheby’s.

Needless to say that this buzzing excitement of the jovial public was completely justified, as the objects presented at Sotheby’s were the crème de la crème of Mercury’s possessions drawn from the late singer’s house in Kensington, which he had bequeathed to his lifelong friend and first love Mary Austin.

Mercury’s clothes and favourite Adidas trainers

Items featured at the auction ranged from a spectacular collection of Freddie Mercury’s fabulous stage ensembles and spicy everyday tee-shirts to the singer’s paintings, notebooks filled with the lyrics of the Queen’s most recognisable hits and many objects of house decor. The sale officially began with of one the most surprising objects pressed at the auction — the garden door from the singer’s South Kensington house, covered from top to bottom in fan tributes. Estimated to be sold for £25,000, the door went for £350,000.

Mercury’s collection of art magnified the public and reflected on the singer’s impeccable taste in and his penchant for Japanese culture. Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake by Utagawa Hirsohige stole the show, going for £230,000 (almost five times the expected price). The 19th Century, Edo Period painting, depicting rain violently lashing down on pedestrians crossing a bridge, is a good example of Hiroshige’s work, which among others have inspired Vincent van Gogh. Additionally, an adorable set of Japanese porcelain of Showa Period (20th Century) was sold for £150,000 against a £12,000 high estimate.

Unsurprisingly, however, the most thrilling part of the auction has began when the items that Mercury has personally worn were put out for bidding. The crown and the cloak, worn by Mercury during the Queen’s Magic tour in 1986, which became a real sensation of the exhibition and later the auction, were bought for £500,000. The silver snake bangle, worn in the music video for hit ballad Bohemian Rhapsody, soared past its high estimate of £9,000 to sell for £550,000, while a pair of a particularly worn-out Adidas trainers went for a dizzying £100,000. The Cartier onyx and diamond ring, which was gifted to Mercury by his starry friend, Sir Elton John, was sold an hour into the auction for £273,000, nearly 70 times its estimate.

Draft lyrics of Stone Cold Crazy

The atmosphere of excitement and joy has reached its peak with the sale of Mercury’s baby grand Yamaha piano, on which he composed the music for his greatest songs including Somebody to Love and Bohemian Rhapsody. As expected, the piano became the most expensive item on the auction, selling for £1.4m. At the same time, the price for the draft lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody have surpassed the six figure mark, went for the unreal £1.1m.

Freddie Mercury on making people happy

The first day has finished with a rendition of We Will Rock You, with participants banging their hands on desks. The carnivalesque atmosphere created by the Queen’s most affluent fans united with the excitement of the Sotheby’s representatives has not yet started to disappear as the auction will fully conclude only on 13th September. However, Sotheby’s has undeniably stuck with Mercury’s own philosophy of making people happy, the reminder for which was cleverly incorporated with the exhibition through one of the singer’s most favourite quotes regarding his relationship with his fans.