Freddie Mercury piano sold for almost $2.2 million in London on WednesdayIt was part of an auction held by Sotheby’s that included thousands of items belonging to the charismatic singer of Queen. Mustaches adorn the facade of Sotheby’s London headquarters. Inside, the rhythm of the first few minutes of the event was the famous song “We will rock you”.
A total of 1,400 items related to the singer, who died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45, will be auctioned. The 59 lots awarded on Wednesday totaled £12,172.29 billion ($15.4 million). The most valuable item is a Yamaha piano, worth £1.742bn, on which Mercury composed almost all of his best songs.
Sotheby’s said the opening price was a record for a piano by the composer, although the auction house estimated its value at between £2 and £3 million. Mercury bought it for £1 million in 1975 after an exhaustive six-month search for “the ideal instrument to bring his compositions to life”.
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Another highly sought-after lot was a manuscript of Queen’s hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” written by Mercury, which sold for £1.379 million ($1.7 million), beating the $800,000-£1.2 million mark valuation.
The 15 pages, written in ballpoint pen on paper bearing the brand name of the now-defunct airline British Midland Airways, reveal the creative process behind the hit that could be called Mongolian Rhapsody. A record 2,000 shoppers from 61 countries registered for memorabilia from the charismatic singer.
The first lot to be auctioned was the gate of Mercury’s London home, Garden Lodge, from which all the auctioned items came. The green door, covered in fan graffiti, sold for £412,750 ($516,000), beating its original estimate of £15,000 to £25,000. Paintings by Chagall, Dali and Picasso that adorned his house are also up for auction, along with the last painting he acquired a month before his death, a James Jacques Joseph Tissot painting.
The collection was being sold by Mary Austin, a close friend who became Mercury’s fiancée. “Mary Austen lived with and cared for the collection for more than three decades,” Sotheby’s book and manuscript specialist Gabrielle Heaton told AFP.
Heaton said Mercury was “not interested in building a museum of his life, but he loved auctions” and was even a regular at Sotheby’s auctions. Austin thought the singer would “love” the auction, he added.
Some items reveal other aspects of Mercury, such as his passion for cats and Japan, which is reflected in his kimono collection. His personal Polaroid photos or shocking stage outfits, like his Hawaiian shirt and Superman tank top, were also sold.
Brazilian businessman Rafael Resiman, who paid £635,000 ($800,000) for a cloak and crown set worn in concert, said Mercury “belongs to the whole world”. The finest wines from his cellar will also be auctioned, such as some Dom Perignons, more intimate items such as a book of poetry or a beard comb, or board games such as Scrabble, in which Mercury Outstanding.
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The auction house presented the collection to the public for a month before the auction. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, two organizations dedicated to the fight against AIDS.
“I miss Freddie to this day,” Elton John said in a message read as the auction opened. “He was kind, generous and funny, but it is a tragedy that AIDS has taken him out of this world so early.” Sotheby’s said it was the first auction at Elton John since 1988 The largest collection of cultural icons ever sold, the 2,000 lots achieved a total of £4.8 million at the time.