mercredi 11 mars 2009

A once in a lifetime auction

A few months ago, I had the chance to view the Poiret clothes that were up for auction at Drouot, one of the venerable auction houses in Paris. It was a great experience and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to go back and participate in one but wasn’t really expecting one. Then lo and behold, the news came out about the big auction for the St. Laurent-Berge art collection. It seemed like this was going to be the auction of the year. And it was. Sales from the auction amounted up to 458 million. As with all auctions the public has the right to view the exhibition a day or two before the actual sales. Unfortunately there was not a chance that I would be able to view the art collection Queues to go in took as long as 4 hours. I was despondent till I learned that an auction for St. Laurent clothes and accessories were to be put on the block at Drouot. Since the art auction was definitely out of the question, this was a chance to finally attend one and maybe even come away with a prize.
There were over 800 articles for the St. Laurent Mode et Accessoires auction. Organized by the Cornette St. Cyr group, it was the first time that such a number of St. Laurent pieces would be together in one auction. It included pieces from his Haute Couture line from the autumn-winter collection of 1970 as well as the Ballet Russes collection of 1976. There were also a number of clothes from his Rive Gauche line not to mention, fur jackets and capes, coats and jackets in all shapes and sizes and of course the jewelry which he designed. Since the clothes were from the period of 1960 to 2002, it reflected the rich and diverse themes which St. Laurent used to design his collection. There were notable pieces from his Picasso inspired collection (one of which is pictured above) and the Saharienne. Impressive as the clothes and accessories were, what really caught my eye were the hand drawn designs left by St. Laurent. There were four in all, two of which were simple sketches of a dress but beautiful in its simplicity while the other two were water color scenes of beautifully dressed little children. They were delicate and quite moving.

Photos of some of the lots for sale...

Just before the auction when the items were on view there was a palpable air of purposefulness in the room as the people milled about appraising this coat or that dress, all the while taking copious notes. Looking around, I realized what an amateur I was compared to all the others. I have to say though that not everyone there were professional buyers or people with shops. There were a good number of people who simply wanted a chance to obtain a beautiful St. Laurent piece that they would never otherwise have the chance to obtain. It was going to take some doing to come away with a piece. After queuing to enter the auction room and finding an actual seat (half of the room was already reserved), everyone was all set. Even the air seemed to hum in anticipation. I wondered if the others around me could hear my loud nervous heartbeats. e To actually participate in the auction was deceptively simple.. I was told that if I saw a piece I liked, I was to raise my hand or make some sort of gesture to indicate my interest and to keep going till I got the item. Hmm…it wasn’t as simple as all that. Or rather it was but the auction proceeded at such a rapid pace that as soon as one person’s bid was up, another and yet another hand would be raised till the price was so far off the original estimation. I timidly raised my hand for a simple raffia pochette that had seen better days and whose lock was even broken when bidding started at 15 Euros. To my horror, the bid went quickly up to 90 euros. This was when I realized the power of the St. Laurent name. People were ready to pay crazy prices. And so it was. The beautiful watercolor called Cadeau de Grand-Mere sold for a handy 6000 euros after being evaluated at 800 while a beautiful white and black evening dress threaded with numerous bugle beads went up to 8750 euros. Through it all, the auctioneer kept a running spiel about the pieces on the block, alternately cajoling or firmly calling an item as sold. And he banged his gavel at the end of every sale just like in the movies. Funnily enough they even had someone sashay up and down the aisles modeling the various capes, jackets and furs that were up for auction. At one point an obviously enraptured woman in the audience reached out and touched the model’s fur covered bottom. “To get a feel for the fur”, she said when people looked at her with raised eyebrows. The whole time the auction was on going, I was frozen in my seat, scared to death that the auctioneer was going to mistake any gesture I make for a bid. Scary thought given the huge amounts being bandied about. And you realize how much your hands move about when you’re trying your best to remain immobile.

The auction finished with about 500,000 worth with 95% of the items sold. I think it’s safe to say that people came home happily short of a few hundred euros after the auction.

A view of the audience..

1 commentaire:

Peach Ledesma a dit…

Hahaha! I really enjoyed this entry Meg!