Freddie Mercury’s piano was sold this Wednesday in London for almost $2.2 million., as part of Sotheby’s auction of thousands of items that belonged to the charismatic Queen singer. A huge mustache graced the façade of Sotheby’s London headquarters. Inside, minutes before the start of the event, the rhythm of the famous song “We will pump you up” was set.
In total, 1,400 lots of items related to the singer, who died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 45, will be put up for auction.. The value of the 59 lots won on Wednesday reached 12,172,290 million pounds ($15.4 million). The item that reached the highest price (£1.742 million) was the Yamaha piano, with which Mercury wrote almost all of his best songs.
Although the auction house estimated it at £2-3 million, the asking price is a record for a composer’s piano, Sotheby’s said. Mercury bought it in 1975 for a million pounds after six months of exhaustive searching for “the perfect instrument to bring life” to his compositions.
Read also: Sofia Coppola paid tribute to Priscilla Presley
Another highly sought-after lot was a manuscript of Queen’s hit Bohemian Rhapsody, written by Mercury, which sold for £1.379 million ($1.7 million), beating the estimate of £800,000-1.2 million.
These 15 pages, handwritten on sheets of paper bearing the name of the now-defunct British Midland Airways, reveal the making of this hit that could be called Mongolian Rhapsody. A record 2,000 buyers from 61 countries registered for a souvenir from the charismatic singer.
The first lot to go up for sale was a door to Garden Lodge, Mercury’s London home, from where all the items up for auction came. Covered in fan graffiti, the green door sold for £412,750 ($516,000), beating its original estimate of £15,000-25,000. Paintings by Chagall, Dali and Picasso that decorated his home were also sold at auction, in addition to the last painting he acquired a month before his death, an oil painting by James Jacques Joseph Tissot.
The collection was put up for sale by Mary Austin, a close friend who became Mercury’s fiancée. “Mary Austin lived with and cared for the collection for more than three decades,” Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist, told AFP.
According to Heaton, Mercury “was not interested in creating a museum of his life, but he loved auctions”, to the point of being a frequent visitor to Sotheby’s auctions. Austin believes the singer would “love” the sale, he added.
Some items reveal other sides of Mercury, such as his passion for cats and Japan, reflected in his kimono collection. Also sold were his personal Polaroids or his extravagant stage costumes, such as a Hawaiian shirt and a Superman tank top.
Brazilian businessman Raphael Resiman, who bought the concert cape and crown for £635,000 ($800,000), said Mercury “belongs to the world.” Also up for auction were select bottles from his cellar, such as some bottles of Dom Pérignon, more intimate items such as a book of poetry or a mustache comb, or board games such as Scrabble, in which Mercury excelled.
Read also: Bruce Springsteen pauses tour due to ulcer
Before the sale, the auction house showed the collection to the public for a month. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, two organizations involved in the fight against AIDS.
“I miss Freddie to this day,” Elton John said in a message read at the start of the auction. “He was kind, generous and funny, and it is a tragedy that AIDS took him from the world so early.” Sotheby’s says it is the largest collection of cultural icons to come to auction since Elton John’s 1988 auction, when 2,000 lots sold for a total of £4.8 million.