More than 1,400 pieces of what the singer and musician described as a “magnificent mess” are up for auction at Sotheby’s in London.
The piano Freddie Mercury used to compose Bohemian Rhapsody and other Queen songs has sold for more than $2 million at a record auction for the late singer’s estate.
Sotheby’s auction house echoed the band’s song “We Will Rock You” before bidding began at their black-tie event in London on Wednesday.
More than 1,400 items are up for sale during the week-long auction, with a giant Mercury-style mustache decorating the facade of Sotheby’s to celebrate the event.
The 59 lots sold on Wednesday brought in 12.2 million pounds ($15.4 million), Sotheby’s said, adding that each lot sold for more than twice the estimated price. A record number of 2,000 bidders from 61 countries participated in the tender in person, online and over the phone.
Mercury’s Yamaha mini piano, which he bought after a six-month search for “the perfect instrument to bring his compositions to life”, sold for £1.74m ($2.2m), including buyer’s premium and fees, while the chart manuscript – The top Bohemian Rhapsody grossed ₹ 1.38 million ($1.7 million).
Auctioneer Oliver Parker described the song’s 15-page lyrics, written in pencil and pen, as a “modern cultural icon”.
The manuscript also reveals that Mercury, who died in 1991 of AIDS-related pneumonia, originally intended to name the song Mongolian Rhapsody.
Other items up for auction on Wednesday included a Victorian silver snake bracelet Mercury wore with an ivory satin bodysuit in the Bohemian Rhapsody video that set a record for the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece of jewelry owned by The Rock. “A star,” said Sotheby’s. The bracelet sold for 698,500 pounds ($881,000) – 100 times its estimated low price.
One man raised his hands above his head in victory and hugged the woman next to him after purchasing the rhinestone-encrusted tiara and red faux-fur gown Mercury wore onstage at the end of every show during Queen’s last tour in 1986. The price? 635 thousand pounds ($801,500).
The artworks sold included prints by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Marc Chagall, as well as antique furniture and several cat figurines.
He loved auctions.
Mercury assembled his group after the glam rock band Queens produced a torrent of hits that allowed the singer to fulfill his dream of living a Victorian life “surrounded by splendid mayhem.”
His best friend, Mary Austin, to whom he left his house and possessions when he died, sells everything.
“Mary Austen has lived with and cared for the collection for more than three decades,” Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, told AFP.
Heaton added that Mercury “wasn’t interested in owning a museum of his life but loved auctions”, so much so that he regularly frequented Sotheby’s sales.
He said Austin thought the artist would have loved the sale.
A portion of the proceeds will go to various charities including the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“I miss Freddy to this day,” John said in a message read at the start of the auction. “He was an amazing friend, full of love and life more than anyone I have ever met, as well as an amazing performer whose music inspired and impressed millions.”
He added, “He was kind, generous and funny, and it is tragic that AIDS took him out of the world so soon.”
“Communicator. Music aficionado. Certified bacon trailblazer. Travel advocate. Subtly charming social media fanatic.”