More than 3,500 people from 34 countries registered for the chance to bid on rocket-shaped cocktail shakers, ornate jumpsuits and black-and-white fashion photographs of superstar Elton John at Christie’s “Goodbye Peachtree Road” auction this week. Two sales in three days of the celebrated musician’s belongings soared to $14.4 million, with the auction house’s fees surpassing the high estimate of $11.3 million.
Bidders competed for the silver leather platform boots. that the singer wore during the 1970s (they sold for $94,000, more than nine times the high estimate) and an 18-karat gold Rolex watch with a leopard print dial (It sold for $176,400, about three times the high estimate.)
For two and a half weeks, John and his husband, David Furnish, will unload about 900 items they collected over decades and lived with in their Atlanta home. Most of the remaining auctions will be held online through February 28, including sales of celebrity portraits, jewelry and John’s Versace clothing. With six online sales remaining, the collection has already surpassed the original (and perhaps conservative) $10 million expectation set by Christie’s.
On Wednesday night, Elton John’s hits played over the speakers as guests filed into the sales room at Christie’s Rockefeller Center, where auction house employees were decked out in sequins and feathers. The night’s most sought-after deals were equally extravagant. A rush of bidders chased a neon sign that read “Horny?!” designed by photographer and music video director David LaChapelle for John’s residence at Caesars Palace. It sold for $26,450, surpassing the high estimate of $1,500. A collection of ruby-colored Versace china dinnerware adorned with the face of Medusa sold for $55,440, more than nine times its high estimate of $6,000. Also a hot commodity: John’s black 1990 Bentley Continental two-door convertible, which sold for $441,000, more than 10 times its high estimate. In an essay published by Christie’s, the EGOT winner said the car “caused quite a stir every time he took it out” in Atlanta.
Now, as Furnish told The New York Times in January, the star wants to leave touring to spend more time with her two young children. Last fall, the couple sold their six-bedroom condo in Atlanta for $7.2 million, a price two million dollars higher than the asking price.
But would the sale presage Eltonmania on the auction floor, continuing a pattern for celebrity collectibles and memorabilia? The contents of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal library — including the former Supreme Court justice’s copy of the 1957-58 Harvard Law Review with notes scribbled in the margins — sold for $2.4 million at a posthumous Bonhams sale in 2022, nearly five times the highest estimate. high. Last year, Sotheby’s sale of Freddie Mercury’s belongings tripled expectations, generating a total of $50.4 million. This month marks the third time Elton John has publicly downsized. He previously sold items ranging from a Magritte painting to a urinal at Sotheby’s in 1988 and 2003.
Notably, 40 percent of Wednesday night’s bidders had never participated in a Christie’s auction before, according to the auction house. The number of people who signed up to take part in the process was about seven times greater than the 500 who signed up for the house’s Asia Week sales last spring.
“Things that were owned by famous people that were known to be larger than life dramatically expand the size of the audience; people want a piece of it,” the art advisor said. Allan Schwartzman. “Objects are given a value that otherwise would not have much value.”
Before the sale, some wondered whether Elton John fever would spread from his suits and luxury goods to his more low-key art and photography, which accounted for about half of the items on offer. (In May, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London will present an exhibition of more than 300 works from John and Furnish’s photographic collection.)
The top price of Wednesday’s sale, $1.9 million, was for a Banksy triptych depicting a masked man throwing a bouquet of flowers like a Molotov cocktail. But overall, demand for some works of fine art and photography cooled. A monumental steel horse by the American sculptor Deborah Butterfield. that John said he had a place of honor, and views of the horizon, in his Atlanta condo, It sold for $100,800, about half its lowest estimate. A photograph of plants by British duo Gilbert & George sold for $189,000, just $3,000 more than John paid for it at auction in 2005. (Taking inflation into account, John actually got about $100,000 in numbers.) reds with that work). The top lot, “Charleston, South Carolina, 1955” by Robert Frank, a black-and-white photograph estimated at $150,000 to $250,000, failed to find a buyer.
In the end, objects most closely associated with John’s public persona as a performer, showman, and style icon captivated bidders more than those that embodied his private passions. Corey Shapiro, founder of eyewear supplier Vintage Frames Company, flew from Montreal to bid on John’s prescription sunglasses, produced by Sir Winston Eyewear in the 1970s. The glasses were estimated to sell for between $2,000 and $3,000; Shapiro paid $22,680 and plans to display his new purchase at his company’s flagship in Montreal. “He was the first person to adopt a superhero power when he put on the glasses,” Shapiro said of John. “He made it fun.”