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Freddie Mercury’s collection of ‘splendid things’ up for auction

Items belonging to Queen singer on sale include costumes, handwritten lyrics and a moustache comb


Included in the auction are handwritten lyrics to We are the Champions, Queen’s greatest anthem sung by fans at live performances including the Live Aid concert in 1985.Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images


For more than 30 years, Freddie Mercury’s London home has been untouched, a shrine to the legendary superstar of the rock band Queen who died in 1991 at the age of 45.


Now its contents – from Mercury’s dazzling stage costumes and handwritten lyrics to paintings and beautiful objects collected on his travels – are to go on show in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong ahead of being sold at auction.


Among the items are a crown modelled on St Edward’s crown, which will be worn by King Charles at his coronation next weekend, and an accompanying cloak made of red velvet, fake fur and rhinestones. Mercury wore the outfit for the final rendition of God Save the Queen, which ended the band’s last live performance at Knebworth in 1986.


Mercury's crown, modelled on St Edward’s crown, and his red velvet cloak. Photograph: Sotheby’s/PA


Also included are the star’s handwritten working lyrics to We are the Champions, Queen’s greatest anthem that was sung by arm-waving fans at live performances, including the crowd of 72,000 at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in 1985. The item is expected to fetch up to £300,000.


Mercury’s home, Garden Lodge in Kensington, was his haven from his flamboyant public persona, a place that friends could visit and stay. He filled it with works of art, including Victorian paintings and pieces by 20th-century artists, glasswork, and Japanese art and fabrics.


“I like to be surrounded by splendid things … exquisite clutter,” Mercury wrote in Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words.


He spent the last months of his life at Garden Lodge, and died there on 24 November 1991, 24 hours after confirming in a statement that he had Aids and appealing for his fans to join “the fight against this terrible disease”.


A silver moustache comb from Tiffany and Co owned by Mercury. Photograph: Sotheby’s/PA


He left Garden Lodge and its contents to Mary Austin, one of his closest and most trusted friends. She said: “For many years now, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things that Freddie sought out and so loved. But the years have passed, and the time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life ….


“Freddie was an incredible and intelligent collector who showed us that there is beauty and fun and conversation to be found in everything. I hope [the exhibitions and auctions] will be an opportunity to share all the many facets of Freddie, both public and private, and for the world to understand more about, and celebrate, his unique and beautiful spirit.”


Mercury's outfit from his 39th birthday party held in Munich in 1985. Photograph: Sotheby’s/PA


The main exhibition will be at Sotheby’s London gallery in August, with all 1,500 or so items from Garden Lodge on display, and closing on what would have been Mercury’s 77th birthday. It will be followed by six auctions in September.


David MacDonald, the head of single owner sales at Sotheby’s London, said: “Freddie Mercury’s collection is a manifestation of one extraordinary man’s creativity, taste and unerring eye for beauty, presenting so much more than just an exquisite selection of the very best examples by artists across centuries and countries.


“Like a Russian doll, Garden Lodge has revealed its layers of treasures over recent months, with the rich tapestry of objects we have discovered there taking us all on a glorious adventure through his imagination. Opening the door to the very special place that was Freddie Mercury’s home offers us the ultimate backstage pass into his world.”


Other items in the collection include a tiny Tiffany & Co silver moustache comb, 11 watercolours by the Russian art deco artist Erté, an 1880 painting by James Jacques Tissot of the artist’s muse and mistress, Kathleen Newton, (estimated to fetch up to £600,000), and Mercury’s 1975 Martin D-35 acoustic guitar in its original case.


From Mercury’s bedside are a Fabergé gem-set, nephrite and enamel desk clock and a vintage bakelite rotary telephone. An embroidered silk furisode (long-sleeved kimono) and a handpainted silk waistcoat featuring Mercury’s cats – Delilah, Goliath, Oscar, Lily, Romeo and Miko – and a lavish ceremonial military-style jacket with imitation medals are also part of the collection.


“Freddie Mercury’s sensational life has left us with a rich array of artistic moments that still move and astound us, a legacy that, like his music, will live on forever,” said Oliver Barker, the chair of Sotheby’s Europe.


Austin will donate some of the proceeds of the sale to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.


Freddie Mercury: A World of his Own will be at Sotheby’s London, 34-35 New Bond Street, 4 August-5 September



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