Sunday, 3 Mar 2024

Tribute acts, catsuits and die hard fans: Inside Freddie Mercury's life auction

It’s not often you can say you watched history happen, but last night as the hammer came down on the first night of Freddie Mercury’s auction it felt like exactly that was happening.

If the walls of Sotheby’s could talk, I am sure there would be some stories to tell, but they can now add to them the sale of some of the most intimate and personal items of the biggest rockstar ever.

Kimonos, catsuits, music machines and moustache combs were just a few of the wonderful items up for sale.

From handwritten lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody to iconic outfits and even the door to his London home, each lot would have been a dream for any Freddie fan to come home with.

As the hammer went down with a closing bid of more than £400,000 on the first lot of the night -the famous Garden Lodge door to his Kensington home – it certainly felt like a kind of magic.

As you swivelled your head and you looked around in the crowd it wasn’t what you would expect an average Sotheby’s set of bidders to look like either.

You had the lead singer of a Queen tribute act, dressed in skinny white trousers and Adidas trainers with a white vest – and a woman who had a high street version of Freddie’s famous exotic bird jacket – that sold for more than £200,000 in front of her.

This was a crowd of Queen fans – who got just as much enjoyment out of seeing the intimate items of Freddie Mercury again as they did they first time they joined thousands of others to get in the queue to look at them over the last month.

But this was also reflective in what the actual price and value of some of the items went for. Some of the rare pieces of art by giants including Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Henry Matisse, were incredibly typical of the 80s and 90s, and despite selling for thousands of pounds they didn’t reach the astronomical price tags they would have fetched in a room full of art dealers.

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The main room was electric from the very first sale, with quips from Sotheby’s chairman Oliver Barker of ‘it’s like Friday night in Blackpool in here’ and ‘We’ll sing the song if it helps’ adding to the theatre that Freddie would have loved to have seen.

As the prices kept getting higher and higher the crowd kept getting more excited, with the sale of Freddie’s silver snake bangle from the Bohemian Rhapsody video a highlight of the eve.

As bids reached £600,000 there were audible gasps from bidders, as they went to and from both online and in the room. Eventually selling for £698,000, it was 100 times the estimate, and made it the most expensive piece of rockstar jewellery ever to be sold.

As the night drew to an end more than £12m had been spent on items that really were ‘money can’t buy’, and when the hammer came down for the final time

Freddie Mercury said himself if he ever left Britain the one thing he would miss the most is Sotheby’s, making it incredibly fitting that this was where his more intimate items were sold.

Everyone in that room would have loved to go home with a little bit of Freddie, but sadly most of them weren’t able too, but as Mr Mercury once said ‘Money may not buy happiness, but it can damn well give it!’

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