Home Lifestyle Bidders Chase Elton John Items and a Banksy at Christie’s Auctions

Bidders Chase Elton John Items and a Banksy at Christie’s Auctions

Bidders Chase Elton John Items and a Banksy at Christie’s Auctions


More than 3,500 people from 34 countries registered for the chance to bid on the superstar Elton John’s rocket-shaped cocktail shakers, ornate jumpsuits, and black-and-white fashion photography at Christie’s “Goodbye Peachtree Road” auction this week. Two sales over three days featuring the celebrated musician’s belongings rocketed to $14.4 million, with auction-house fees, outperforming the high estimate of $11.3 million.

Bidders vied for silver leather platform boots the singer wore throughout the 1970s (they sold for $94,000, more than nine times the high estimate) and an 18-karat gold Rolex watch with a leopard-print dial (it fetched $176,400, about three times the high estimate).

Over two and a half weeks, John and his husband, David Furnish, will offload around 900 items they collected over the decades and lived with in their Atlanta home. Most of the remaining auctions will take place online through Feb. 28, including sales of John’s celebrity portraits, jewelry and Versace clothes. With six online sales to go, the collection has already exceeded the original (and perhaps conservative) expectation of $10 million set by Christie’s.

On Wednesday night, Elton John hits played over the loudspeakers as guests streamed into Christie’s Rockefeller Center salesroom, where auction house employees were decked out in sequins and feathers. The evening’s most sought-after offerings were equally flamboyant. A flurry of bidders chased a neon sign spelling out “Horny?!” designed by the photographer and music video director David LaChapelle for John’s residency at Caesars Palace. It sold for $26,450, shattering the high estimate of $1,500. A collection of ruby-colored Versace porcelain dinnerware emblazoned with the face of Medusa realized $55,440, more than nine times its $6,000 high estimate. Also a hot commodity: John’s black 1990 Bentley Continental two-door convertible, which sold for $441,000, more than 10 times its high estimate. In an essay published by Christie’s, the EGOT winner said the car “caused quite a stir whenever I took it out” in Atlanta.

Now, as Furnish told The New York Times in January, the star wants to pull back from touring to spend more time with their two young sons. Last fall, the couple sold their six-bedroom Atlanta condominium for $7.2 million — a price $2 million over asking.

But would the sale foreshadow Elton-mania on the auction floor, continuing a pattern for celebrity collectibles and keepsakes? The contents of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal library — including the former Supreme Court justice’s copy of the 1957-58 Harvard Law Review with notes scribbled in the margins — fetched $2.4 million at a posthumous Bonhams sale in 2022, almost five times the high estimate. Last year, Sotheby’s sale of Freddie Mercury’s belongings tripled expectations, delivering a total of $50.4 million. This month marks the third time Elton John has publicly downsized. He previously sold objects ranging from a Magritte painting to a chamber pot at Sotheby’s in 1988 and 2003.

Notably, 40 percent of the bidders on Wednesday evening had never participated in a Christie’s sale before, according to the auction house. The number of people who signed up to take part in the proceedings was about seven times the 500 who registered for the house’s Asia Week sales last spring.

“Things that were owned by famous people who were known to have been larger than life expands dramatically the size of the audience — people want a piece of it,” said the art adviser Allan Schwartzman. “Objects are given value that might not otherwise have much value at all.”

Ahead of the sale, some wondered whether Elton John fever would extend from his costumes and luxury items to his more understated art and photography, which accounted for about half the objects on offer. (In May, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London will present an exhibition of more than 300 works from John and Furnish’s photography collection.)

The top price from Wednesday’s sale, $1.9 million, was for a triptych by Banksy depicting a masked man throwing a bouquet of flowers as if it were a Molotov cocktail. But by and large, demand cooled for some fine art and photography works. A monumental steel horse by the American sculptor Deborah Butterfield, which John said had pride of place, and skyline views, in his Atlanta condo, sold for $100,800 — around half its low estimate. A photograph of plants by the British duo Gilbert & George fetched $189,000, only $3,000 more than John paid for it at auction in 2005. (Accounting for inflation, John actually came out around $100,000 in the red on that work.) On Friday, the top lot, Robert Frank’s “Charleston, South Carolina, 1955,” a black-and-white photograph estimated at $150,000 to $250,000, failed to find a buyer.

In the end, the objects most closely associated with John’s public persona as a performer, showman and style icon captivated bidders more than those that embodied his private passions. Corey Shapiro, the founder of the eyewear purveyor Vintage Frames Company, flew from Montreal to bid on John’s prescription sunglasses, produced by Sir Winston Eyewear in the 1970s. The glasses were estimated to sell for $2,000 to $3,000; Shapiro paid $22,680 and plans to put his new purchase on display at his company’s Montreal flagship. “He was the first person to adopt a superhero power when he put on his eyewear,” Shapiro said of John. “He made it fun.”


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