For true pop music devotees — and particularly for those who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s — 2016 delivered a year of The Day The Music Died-level emotional trauma on a monthly basis. Like some kind of Plague Upon the Rock Stars, 2016 wiped out an entire lifetimes’ worth of legends, including David Bowie in early January, then Keith Emerson in March, Prince in April, Leonard Cohen in November and, as the year’s final fuck you — on Christmas day no less — we lost George Michael.
George Michael’s death at age 53 was especially devastating to my close friend Geoffrey, for whom Michael was not only a favorite recording artist but also a creative inspiration and role model. In March, George Michael’s personal art collection will be sold by Christie’s Auction House in London, with all proceeds going towards continuance of Michael’s philanthropic work. But before the collection hits the block to be sold worldwide for millions of pounds, an exhibit of representative pieces is touring a few cities where Christie’s has offices, so that George Michael fans can experience the joy that Michael surely felt while living with these beautiful and moving works of fine contemporary art — many of which are by artists with whom Michael had personal relationships. Geoffrey recently relocated from Manhattan to Chicago, so when he asked me if I would attend the exhibit at Christie’s headquarters in Rockefeller Center, I said that I would. “Take Pictures of Everything,” he implored me, and I did. Sadly, out of the 200 pieces to be sold, the NYC leg of the exhibit only had twelve artworks on display. This is what I saw.
Handcuffs (2002) by Michael Craig-Martin is expected to sell for between 30,000 to 50,000 GBP (Great British Pounds). This is my favorite piece among the collection on exhibit in New York.
Portrait (2009) is a Bronze and California Redwood-based sculpture by Thomas Houseago. It is expected to fetch 40,000 to 60,000 GBP.
In The Park (1997) above left, and American Tan XXIV (2006-07), on the right, both by Gary Hume, are estimated to sell for 40,000 to 60,000 GBP each
Incorruptible Crown (2006) is one of four works by Damien Hirst in this collection. The kaleidoscopic design is created from butterfly wings under glass. It is expected to sell for between 300,000 to 400,000 GBP.
The art is displayed in just two galleries, and in the second gallery there was a short video playing on a loop that tells you something about the collection and about who George Michael was as an artist and philanthropist. There were also quotes on the walls attributed to Michael, as well as a few quotes from various artists that he knew. It is in this room that I felt his spirit.
Photograph of Immaculate Heart-Sacred (2008) by Damien Hirst. The physical work is estimated to sell for between 120,000 and 180,000 GBP.
If you had any doubt that George Michael became rich beyond his wildest dreams, understand that there are three of Damien Hirst’s Natural History formaldehyde series works coming up for auction in London, which, owing to their potentially fragile nature, are represented in the exhibit only by photographs. The work pictured above is comprised of a pickled bull’s heart and dove wings skewered with a dagger and suspended in a glass vitrine of formaldehyde. I am sure that it will sell for much higher than the estimated price.
Photograph of The Incomplete Truth (2006) by Damien Hirst. Comprised of a Taxidermy Dove suspended in a vitrine of formaldehyde solution, the physical work is estimated to sell for between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 GBP.
Photograph of San Sebastian, Exquisite Pain (2007) by Damien Hirst is the artist’s take on the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Comprised of a Bullock (a young bull) pierced with arrows and suspended in a formaldehyde-filled vitrine, it is expected to fetch between 1,000,000 to 1,500,00 GBP.
Untitled (2008) oil painting by Cecily Brown, estimated to sell for between 350,000 to 550,000 GBP.
Tracey Emin’s Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul (2002) is a large-scale example of the artist’s celebrated appliquéd blankets, which transform traditional textile-based media into vehicles for raw, confessional poetry. This piece is estimated to sell for as high as 180,000 to 250,000 GBP.
Bridget Riley’s Songbird (1982) (striped painting above, left), among Michael’s favorite works which hung above the fireplace in one of his homes, has an estimated final sale price of 400,000 to 600,000 GBP. Rebecca Warren’s Untiled (2002) (above, right) is a bronze and gold-painted statue with an estimated final sale price of between 120,000 and 180,000 GBP.
Although the NYC exhibit is now closed, the George Michael Collection will make stops in Los Angeles (February 11th –16th) and Hong Kong (February 19th –22nd), before concluding with a special public view at Christie’s London headquarters (March 9th – 14th). These exhibits are free and open to the public, so if you live in one of these cities you can consult the Christie’s website for their location and hours.
Best of luck to all bidders!