Yves Saint Laurent Sale Is One for the Ages

Yves Saint Laurent Sale Is One for the Ages
The massive and record shattering six-session sale of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection held at the Grand Palais in Paris ended this evening with a final tally of €374,392,500 ($484,426,456). A scant 31 of the 689 lots offered during the three-day slugfest failed to find buyers, for a miniscule buy-in rate of 4 percent by lot and 7 percent by value. The overall tally leapfrogged pre-sale expectations of €194–274 million.

In tonight's final session, offering 64 lots of Asian art, archeology, and furniture, all but one item sold for a total of €42,868,025 (est. €19.1–24.8 million) and buy-in rates of 2 percent by lot and 1 percent by value.

The two top performers in the session made identical prices and sold to the same telephone representative. The rare and unquestionably important 18th-century bronze rat head made for the Zodiac Fountain of the Emperor Qianlongs summer palace made €15,745,000 (unpublished estimate in the region of €8–10 million). Its companion piece, a bronze rabbit head executed for the same palace, earned the same mark and carried the same unpublished estimate.

Efforts by an independent cultural group as well as an 11th-hour appeal to Christie’s from the Chinese government to stop the sale of the esteemed objects failed.

The unprecedented results of the single-owner sale will take some time to digest as far as market significance and impact go.

The only auction result that has made more in terms of dollars spent would be the single-session, various-owner sale of Impressionist and modern art held at Christie’s New York in November 2006, which fetched $491,472,000 (€384 million).

Judd Tully is Editor at Large of Art+Auction.