7 Sep, 2023

Freddie Mercury piano sells for 1.74m in auction of singer’s belongings

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Freddie Mercury piano sells for 1.74m in auction of singer’s belongings

Brian May and some fans express dismay as contents of late Queen frontman’s home go under hammer in six-day sale.

Freddie Mercury’s Yamaha baby grand piano has been sold for £1.74m as thousands of his possessions were auctioned on Wednesday night, amid criticism by some fans and Brian May.

The Queen frontman left his Kensington home, Garden Lodge, and its contents to his close friend Mary Austin. More than 32 years after his death, Austin is selling the contents at Sotheby’s, with some of the proceeds going to charity after the six-day sale.

People cheered and applauded at Sotheby’s Bond Street headquarters as they waited for the hammer to fall on lot one, a garden door scrawled in graffiti that sold for more than £400,000 including costs.

The door is coated in scribbled tributes to Mercury from fans all over the world in several languages and over several decades. The auction house had estimated it would fetch up to £25,000.

Mercury’s Yamaha piano on which he composed some of the group’s biggest hits went for £1,742,000, which included costs, although it had been expected to fetch up to £3m.

The manuscript for Bohemian Rhapsody fetched £1.38m, exceding its maximum guide price of £1.2m. The 15 pages of lyrics, with pencil and ballpoint remarks, also reveal that the song was originally going to be called Mongolian Rhapsody.

More than 6,000 people watched the sale unfold online, with many expressing dismay at the spectacle of Mercury’s possessions being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

In contrast to the piano, many of the early items in the sale were sold at several times more than their catalogue prices. They included a 5cm Fabergé case with a list price of £6,000 to £8,000, which went for £95,250; a Tiffany table lamp at £60,960, six times its asking price; and a 1895 sideboard at £31,760.

A silver snake bangle that Mercury wore in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody video was sold for £698,500. It was estimated to go for up to £9,000.

A Cartier onyx and diamond ring, which was a gift from Sir Elton John to Mercury, sold for £273,000, nearly 70 times its estimate.

A “Queen No 1” gold Cartier brooch was sold for £165,000. The band’s manager John Reid gifted one of the brooches to each member of Queen when Bohemian Rhapsody reached No 1 in the UK charts in 1975, according to the auction house.

May, Queen’s guitarist, made it clear he would not be watching.

Writing on Instagram on the eve of the sale, he said: “Tomorrow … Freddie’s most intimate personal effects, and writings that were part of what we shared for so many years, will go under the hammer, to be knocked down to the highest bidder and dispersed for ever. I can’t look. To us, his closest friends and family, it’s too sad.”

Mercury died in 1991 at the age of 45, just 24 hours after confirming in a statement that he had Aids and appealing for his fans to join “the fight against this terrible disease”.

In total, the auction is expected to fetch up to £11m. Part of the money raised will go to the Elton John Aids Foundation but it is unclear how much.

Thomas Williams, a Sotheby’s director, told the Guardian: “Masses of people will be in a position to bid for a little piece of Freddie.”

But many of his fans did not agree and expressed their anger over the sale.

“This auction is crazy,” wrote Frederica G on Twitter. “It is an outrage to Freddie, the members of Queen, his family and all of us fans.”

Writing on Instagram, Cheryl said: “It’s too bad some of these items couldn’t be in a museum where we all could see. Things will be lost for ever.”

Auctioneer Oliver Barker, chair of Sotheby’s Europe, said the month-long exhibition of the items on sale had “caught everybody’s imaginations”.

At the start of the auction, he said: “What we’ve witnessed here at Sotheby’s these last few weeks is nothing short of phenomenal. It has captured the hearts and minds of the public all over the world. By the time the doors closed yesterday, on this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, we welcomed 140,000 visitors.”

Source: The Guardian

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