George Michael’s private art collection raised more than £11 million for charity

The George Michael Collection sells for more than £11 million — including £9,264,000 in a memorable Evening Auction at Christie’s in London — with proceeds going to extend the singer’s extraordinary philanthropic legacy
After a world tour that saw highlights exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a special multi-media exhibition in London that celebrated George Michael’s life, his music and the art he lived with, standout pieces from the singer’s collection sold for £9,264,000 in a dedicated evening sale at Christie’s King Street headquarters.

Bidders from 27 countries across five continents were registered in the Evening Auction, reflecting the global appeal of George Michael and the Young British Artists he collected. The online sale of works from The George Michael Collection, which closed on Friday 15 March, was just as successful, totalling an incredible £2,045,375.

The money raised from the sale of The George Michael Collection will extend the philanthropic legacy he built so generously and so privately during his lifetime.

The collection spoke volumes about George Michael, a man who touched millions with his music, his honesty, and his kindness. This was partly due to the autobiographical nature of so many of the works within it, but also because it revealed the extent to which he had supported his fellow British artists.

For the thousands of fans who flocked to the London exhibition, there was an added dimension: a precious opportunity for communion with their departed hero.

Watch the evening auction in full

The energy was palpable in a packed saleroom at King Street, and among the many bidding online, on the phones and via a live link from Christie’s New York saleroom. The competitive bidding and the fact that every single lot sold were a tribute to both George Michael’s eye for contemporary art and the depth of feeling for an artist whose songbook of classic tracks defined an era.

The top prices on the night were achieved for works by artists who George Michael knew and collected in depth, or for pieces that had particular resonance with the star who sold over 120 million records in a glittering 35-year career.

The sale was led by two iconic Damien Hirst formaldehyde works — The Incomplete Truth, which George Michael acquired in 2007, sold for £911,250 (including buyer’s premium), while Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, the artist’s powerful re-staging of the image of the Christian martyr and gay icon, realised £875,250. Hirst’s The Immaculate Heart Sacred, executed in 2008, cruised past its high estimate before selling for £323,250.
Cecily Brown’s Untitled inspired multiple bids before being won at £791,250, while Bridget Riley’s Songbird (1982), the first major work George Michael acquired for the collection, realised the same price after another prolonged battle.

Of all the artists in the collection, Tracey Emin was perhaps the one who was closest to George Michael. He collected and cherished her work, owning standout pieces such as Hurricane, a 2007 acrylic on canvas, which realised £431,250 against a high estimate of £180,000 — a new auction record for the artist by medium; George Loves Kenny, the unique neon Emin created after travelling with the singer on tour, which drew a huge round of applause when it sold for £347,250; and Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul, an appliqué blanket from 2002, which was bought for £275,000.

In the build-up to the sale, Michael Craig-Martin, who taught many of the leading lights of the YBA generation at Goldsmiths, spoke about his relationship with George Michael and their discussions about ‘the problem of sustained creativity’.

Three large-scale Craig-Martin works all exceeded their high estimates. Untitled (SEX), Untitled (GOD) and Handcuffs all speak to the episode in 1998 when George Michael succeeded in turning one of his lowest moments into a personal triumph through a combination of humour, defiance and great music. The works sold for £125,000, £40,000 and £112,500 respectively, while the artist’s Commissioned Portrait Untitled (George), a totemic work in the collection, did even better by reaching £175,000 in the online sale.

World auction records were set in the live sale for Jim Lambie, whose Careless Whisper was a favourite with the crowds at the pre-sale exhibition and produced a flurry of bidding to make £175,000; for Angus Fairhurst, one of the original YBAs, whose bronze gorilla, titled A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling II, achieved £118,750 (more than double its high estimate); for Harland Miller’s Incurable Romantic Seeks Filthy Dirty Whore, which went for £237,500 after a spirited contest in the saleroom; and for James White with Relationships II, which sold for £22,500.

Harland Miller claimed a further distinction when his Death, What’s in it for Me? sold for £212,500 online, the top price in the sale.

In the live auction there were strong results, too, for works by Tim Noble & Sue Webster, led by Excessive Sensual Indulgence, one of many works with a title that would have looked at home among the tracks on a George Michael album, which realised £237,500.

It was fitting, perhaps, that the Evening Auction closed with the poignant And if I don’t meet you no more…, a neon by Cerith Wyn Evans, which comfortably set a new artist record by medium when it sold for £68,750. The sentiment expressed in the work has been shared by many who have come to Christie’s over recent weeks to celebrate the life, the music and the generosity of George Michael.

VIRTUAL TOUR

The George Michael Collection Evening Auction | Browse Lots

The George Michael Collection Online Auction | Browse Lots

Source: Christies.com

Memories of George Michael

Some of the biggest names in music, fashion and art share their thoughts on the singer whose music and generosity touched so many people across the world

Paul McCartney

‘Having worked with him on a number of occasions, his great talent always shone through and his self-deprecating sense of humour made the experience even more pleasurable.’

Stevie Wonder

‘George is in the category of many of us who have been blessed with the gift of music.’

Adele

‘I found him to be one of the truest icons, because famous people often create this massive bravado to protect themselves, but for him it wasn’t based on a look or an assumption.’

Linda Evangelista

‘One of my favourite times with Georgie was seeing Prince in concert in London — from the sound booth — and dancing the entire time! Georgie was a dazzling and compassionate soul who I will always remember as he was on the day when we met: with a precocious smile and sense of adventure. Thank you for the love, Georgie.’

Tracey Emin

‘There are certain songs that you could ask just George to sing and it would make people cry, just the resonance of his voice.’

GEORGE MICHAEL IN THREE WORDS

Sam Smith

‘For me, he was a megastar, but he was so human. I love that about him… In interviews he would say the wrong things but he was so flawed in such a beautiful way… He sent me flowers once… and I cried my eyes out.’

Whitney Houston

‘George Michael five or six, seven years on from… Wham!, was totally different. He grew up and became this phenomenon that talked about things that people really want to talk about.’

Robbie Williams

‘I was equal parts inspired and terrified, not of George, but of the prospect of trying to be something like George… When he arrived on stage, whether it be rehearsing or doing the actual performance, you were in the presence of such a magnetic personality, such charisma… And of course, his music will last for ever. His music is eternal. He inspired in a lot of different ways. I just thought he was a god.’

Mariah Carey

‘I was looking at him, [and thinking], “Wow that would be the ultimate goal, if I could do what he is doing”.’

Mark Ronson

‘When you hear something like [Freedom ’90], you know that his music is going to continue to mean something to people for as long as it’s heard.’

Naomi Campbell

‘The man with the golden, angelic voice.’

Mary J. Blige

‘George Michael’s voice was always very soulful, and very warm and sultry and urgent. He had soul. Period.’

Cindy Crawford

‘His bravery inspired us all.’

Martin Kemp

‘George was one of the world’s nicest people you could ever want to meet. He was so generous, not just financially with his friends, but emotionally. And he would sit and listen and you could talk to him for hours about anything or anyone. He was the most caring person… we miss him so much.’

Elton John

‘The kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist.’

Source: Christies.com

The George Michael Collection

comes to Christie’s.


Over 200 works from the legendary recording artist’s private collection, including iconic pieces by the leading YBA artists, to be offered across a flagship live auction in London on 14 March, and a special online sale — with proceeds used to continue George Michael’s philanthropic work

Singer, songwriter and creative icon, George Michael was one of the most influential recording artists of all time. Across a stellar 35-year career, which began with Wham! in the early 1980s and flourished with a string of era-defining solo hits, he sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, packed stadiums and arenas from Tokyo to Tampa, and won scores of major awards, redefining pop music in the process.

In addition to writing, producing and performing a songbook of classic tracks — Careless Whisper, Last Christmas, A Different Corner, Faith, Praying for Time, Freedom ’90, Fastlove, and Jesus to a Child, to name just a few, George Michael’s standing in the music world is reflected by the calibre of artists who sought to work with him: Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and Luciano Pavarotti being among those he recorded or duetted with.

George Michael won three Ivor Novello Awards for Songwriter of the Year (1985, 1989 and 1996) — the only individual to win the accolade on three occasions, and in 2004 was named by the Radio Academy as the most played artist on British radio over the previous 20 years.

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