Sep 26, 2008
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YSL partner unveils 'sale of the century' art collection

Sep 26, 2008

PARIS, Sept 26, 2008 (AFP) - A half-billion-dollar art collection amassed over 50 years by late French fashion king Yves Saint Laurent and his companion Pierre Berge was unveiled Friday ahead of a historic auction next February.

Pierre Bergé - Photo : AFP
Pierre Berge, YSL's lover and business partner, decided to part with their 700-strong treasure trove of oils, furniture, statuettes, enamels and jewellery following the death of his lifelong companion in June, aged 71.

Among the masterpieces that graced the pair's separate Paris homes, unveiled to the press Friday, are works by Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse or Leger including a Mondrian that once belonged to the film director Otto Preminger.

Billed as the "sale of the century", the three-day auction, to be held on February 23-25 at the Grand Palais in Paris, is expected by auctioneers to fetch up to 300 million euros (440 billion dollars).

But French antiques expert Alexis Kugel told AFP he expected the auction to pull in "far more" than the estimate price, with some experts suggesting the figure of 500 million euros.

Berge, whose own auction house Pierre Berge et Associes is holding the sale jointly with Christie's, insisted he had "no regrets" in letting the collection go, saying he needed to "mark an end to all this".

"Yves Saint Laurent is dead. This collection doesn't mean much any more. I will not keep it going," he told reporters.

Among pieces owned by the pair are Brancusi sculpture once owned by Leger, a marble bust from 100 AD, Renaissance enamels, a tiny portrait of Louis XIV circled by 78 diamonds, a Goya, an Ingres, and 18th-century Chinese bronzes.

The 77-year-old Berge, who co-founded the YSL fashion empire in 1961 with his then 25-year-old partner, frequented the likes of Paris literati Jean Giono and Jean Cocteau as a young man, before meeting Saint Laurent.

In later years Berge ran a theatre, staged concerts, headed the Paris Opera, worked as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and helped Chinese pro-democracy protesters after the events of Tiananmen.

Berge says he will use the proceeds of the sale to fund a medical foundation for research into HIV/AIDS.

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