In 1962 Pierre Bergé cofounded the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house with the designer, his partner in business and in private life. Through the decades the couple collected art and design passionately, amassing wide-ranging holdings that Bergé sold in a record-breaking auction following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008. A decade ago, Bergé opened an auction house under his own name, but his latest project takes him back to his long partnership. On the occasion of the American debut of the exhibition “Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective” at the Denver Art Museum on the 25th of this month, Bergé spoke with Ann Binlot about fashion, art, and nostalgia.
The exhibition, which was first shown at the Petit Palais in Paris, was the first comprehensive look back at Yves Saint Laurent’s work. What do you hope it achieves?
I hope people will understand what Yves Saint Laurent is, what that means, what was his career, what was his work—it’s fantastique! Because Yves Saint Laurent was, without doubt, one of the two greatest creative couturiers of the 20th century. For me there are only two couturiers, really: Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
In some ways your life has exemplified the connection between art and fashion.
I would like to specify that for me, fashion is not an art. Fashion needs an artist to exist. But it’s not an art. It’s just clothes. That’s all. Fashion exists only when it’s worn by women. Otherwise it is nothing. It’s not an art. But Yves Saint Laurent was an artist.
Which artwork was the most difficult for you to part with in the 2009 Christie’s auction?
You know, when I decided to sell our collection, it was very easy because Yves was dead and the collection for me doesn’t mean—not anything. Maybe the only painting I would have wanted to hold on to was Frans Hals’s A Man with a Book because I do love Frans Hals. But that’s not important. I don’t like nostalgia. I hate nostalgia.
This article appeared in the March issue of Art+Auction magazine.