Crowds throng to see Saint Laurent art treasures

Sat Feb 21, 2009 9:19am EST
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By James Mackenzie

PARIS (Reuters) - Crowds stretching around the block lined up on Saturday for a look at the huge art and furniture collection of the late Yves Saint Laurent before it is sold next week in the biggest auction Paris has seen in years.

The collection, created over five decades by the designer and his business partner and companion Pierre Berge and housed in their sumptuous Paris apartments, has been described as one of the most important in private hands.

More than 700 pieces range from paintings by artists including Picasso, Matisse and Degas to 17th century German silverware, ancient Roman sculptures, Chinese bronzes, Art Nouveau furniture and 18th century cameo brooches.

"I've rarely seen a such a varied and diverse collection of objects which nonetheless make up such a coherent ensemble, that's what's so exceptional," said Francois Du Vivier from Brussels, who said he was considering bidding in the sale.

On display in the Grand Palais museum on the Champs Elysees, the collection is to be sold by auctioneers Christie's over three days next week, with the estimated proceeds of up to 300 million euros ($377.3 million) going to medical research.

The shy and reclusive Saint Laurent, whose clothing designs revolutionized women's fashion, died at the age of 71 last year and left his share of the collection to the charitable foundation he set up with Berge.

The two men were avid buyers, seeking out works that were often little known at the time and which their own interest and influence helped to promote.

"One relives that period in the '60s and '70s when all that was being rediscovered and was also fuel for Saint Laurent's own creativity," said Philippe Garner, a specialist in 20th century art and design at Christie's.   Continued...

<p>A bronze group of The Rape of Sabine, attributed to Ferdinando Tacca, is displayed during the exhibition of the private art collection of French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge at the Grand Palais in Paris February 21, 2009. The collection will be auction and sold in Paris February 23, 2009, in partnership with Christie's and auction house Pierre Berge and Associates. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>