Whether it’s leading a crowd of thousands in a chorus of 'Ay-Ohs' at Wembley Arena during Live Aid, or, penning the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury was a rockstar unlike any other. But in private, the superstar was also an avid collector of art and curios. The sum of his collection was kept at Garden Lodge, a Georgian-style brick villa in Kensington, which he purchased in 1980 and filled with the fine art and objects that inspired him until his untimely death in 1991.
This summer, all 1,500 or so items from the lodge, will be revealed for the first time in a dedicated month-long exhibition at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street. The showcase will see every inch of the company’s 16,000 sq. ft gallery space dedicated to celebrating Mercury's rich and multi-faceted life. There will also be pop-up shops and restaurants inspired by the singer to enjoy during the event, which opens on August 4, and closes on what would have been his 77th birthday, September 5.
This stunning collection, which includes 20th-century masterpieces as well as beautiful kimonos brought back from Mercury's frequent trips to Japan and a host of never-before-seen handwritten song lyrics, will then go under the hammer at a series of six dedicated sales to be held at Sotheby's in September.
The auctions will be led by a live evening sale on 6 September, in which a cross-section of the most significant items in the collection will be offered. On 7 and 8 September, two further live auctions will follow: the first dedicated to Mercury “On Stage”, the second dedicated to his life “At Home”, and to the objects he loved and lived with at Garden Lodge.
Coveted items include the working drafts to iconic Queen hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions and Somebody to Love. With an estimate of £800-£1.2 million, the notes for Bohemian Rhapsody even show an early alternative for song's name as 'Mongolian Rhapsody', though thankfully, that didn't make the cut.
Other items of note include the singer's Adidas High-Top sneakers, (estimate £3,000-£5,000) and a pair of mirrored aviators (£2,000-£4,000). A showstopping crown and cloak in fake fur, red velvet and rhinestones, worn for the finale rendition of “God Save The Queen” during Mercury's last tour with Queen, carry an estimate of £60,000-£80,000.
Surmising on Mercury's colourful life, Oliver Barker, chairman of Sotheby's Europe says: "Freddie Mercury’s sensational life has left us with a rich array of artistic moments. Lavish in scale, the auction will bring together the expertise of specialists from 30 different collecting categories... all culminating in the longest, most spectacular, public exhibition in our company's history. How else could we celebrate the legend that is Freddie Mercury?"
Sotheby's 34-35 New Bond Steet London, W1S 2RP