The legendary music world reverberated with echoes of the past as a Yamaha baby grand piano, a creative tool of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, fetched £1.7m in auction. Despite the final sale narrowly missing estimates, auctioneer Sotheby’s highlighted the achievement as a record for a composer’s piano.
An array of Mercury’s personal belongings, amounting to thousands in number, found new owners during a live auction following a several weeks-long exhibition. Additional auctions, inclusive of two live sessions, are slated to follow this primary sale.
Among the first items to pique interest at auction was the door from Mercury’s Garden Lodge home in West London. Far exceeding its pre-auction estimate of £15,000-25,000, the relic finally changed hands for an all-inclusive price of £412,750.
Mercury, a vanguard in the music industry with a unique blend of glam rock, heavy metal, and theatrical flair, led Queen to ascend the ranks of musical fame throughout the 1970s.
Prior to auction, the star’s piano and a vivid collection of personal items were exhibited to the public. One such item, an original 15-page draft manuscript for Bohemian Rhapsody, which Mercury had tentatively titled “Mongolian Rhapsody”, was sold for £1.3m. The manuscript, now a piece of music history, manifests Mercury’s diverse vision for the track.
Additional handwritten notes for songs such as Don’t Stop Me Now, Somebody to Love, and We Are The Champions awaited the highest bidder.
The Zanzibar-born Mercury, an art enthusiast with a grand collection, had vast items up for auction, including paintings by Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso which once graced the walls of his home. The collection also included the final artwork Mercury purchased just a month before succumbing to AIDS at age 45 in 1991.
In total, Mary Austin, a close acquaintance and previous romantic partner of Mercury, offered 1,469 items from his Garden Lodge home for sale. Gabriel Heaton, a books and manuscripts specialist at Sotheby’s, disclosed that Austin had presided over the collection for the better part of three decades, maintaining its grandeur.
Beyond Mercury’s artistic possessions, a trove of personal items were also brought to the auction block. These included stage costumes reflecting his flamboyant persona, a collection of kimonos, and the singer’s moustache comb. Collectors also had the opportunity to bid on personal polaroid photos, a book of personally annotated poetry, and vintage champagne bottles from Mercury’s own cellar.
In anticipation of the auction, expected to generate upwards of £6m, Sotheby’s hosted a month-long open exhibition free of charge. A portion of the proceedings will be channeled toward charitable causes including the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Comparatively, Sir Elton’s own 1988 Sotheby’s sale of 2,000 lots amassed a total of £4.8m.