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Elton John’s boots sell for $94,500 in enthusiastic auction at Christie’s

Even John’s photography collection was mounted on shiny, reflective wall-coverings. Room after room contained tableaus of John’s belongings.
Last Updated : 22 February 2024, 02:53 IST
Last Updated : 22 February 2024, 02:53 IST

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By James Tarmy

Celebrity sells once again.

That’s the takeaway from a massive, everything-must go auction of pop-star Elton John’s personal belongings at Christie’s New York on Wednesday night. Comprised of furnishings, art, clothing, and memorabilia drawn from John’s former Peachtree Road apartment in Atlanta, the evening’s sale was the first of eight auctions.

Every one of Wednesday night’s 49 lots found a buyer, oftentimes for well above the high estimate. The night was expected to bring in between $4.1 million and $5.9 million; with auction house fees known as a buyer’s premium, it ended up yielding $8 million. Overall, about 900 lots spread over all of the auctions are anticipated to total more than $10 million, although given the first night’s total, that estimate seems increasingly conservative.

Ahead of the sale, Christie’s did its best to drum up enthusiasm. It decked out its Rockefeller Center headquarters with Elton John-themed decorations, many of which involved uplighting and mirrors. Even John’s photography collection was mounted on shiny, reflective wall-coverings. Room after room contained tableaus of John’s belongings.

There was even a gift shop, with Elton John merchandise at a price point significantly lower than the lots themselves. During the exhibition, which ran from February 9 to the 21, approximately 8,000 people visited the show, according to a Christie’s spokesperson.

Celebrity Sparkle

Many of the lots were runaway hits, particularly anything worn by John himself. A pair of prescription sunglasses from the 1970s had a high estimate of $3,000 and sold, with fees, for $22,680. A Rolex Daytona with an orange and yellow leopard face and strap that was also covered in diamonds and sapphires, carried a $40,000 to $60,000 estimate; bidding began at $30,000, and quickly rose past $80,000. A flurry of bids brought it to a $140,000 hammer; with fees it came to $176,400. Even more successful was a Cartier “crash” model watch, which carried a high estimate of $100,000 and sold for $277,200.

John’s 1990 Bentley two door convertible carried a modest presale estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. John had it shipped with him all over the world, from Los Angeles, to Atlanta, to the Cote d’Azur—“whenever I went shopping in Monaco, we’d valet park the car at the Hotel de Paris,” he wrote in one of the less relatable anecdotes sprinkled throughout the catalog. It sold for $441,000. On the lower end of the spectrum, a pair of rocket-shaped silver cocktail shakers had a high estimate of $10,000 and sold for $50,400.

Donna Goldstein, who identified herself as a designer, was in the room, and competed with an online bidder for a group of seven silk Versace shirts. She won the lot, paying $30,240, well above their high estimate of $6,000. She plans, she says, to wear the shirts “out at night: dinner parties, clubs.” The John provenance was a draw, she says, but so were the shirts themselves.

Similarly, Megan Klimen, who flew in from San Francisco for the day and bid on at least 10 lots, says she was attracted to the objects as much as their former owner. “Who doesn't like Elton John? But I'm not some sort of super fan,” she says. “It's a lot of nice art. It's a lot of interesting costumes and fun clothes.”

A Mixed Bag

Other lots didn’t do quite so well, particularly some of the black and white photography.

John and his husband, David Furnish, are prolific collectors of the medium—they have an estimated 7,000 photographs, and an exhibition of his collection is set to open at London’s V&A in May. Many of the works were priced like fine art (in other words, expensively) rather than memorabilia. Bidding for these was tepid. A work by Cindy Sherman was estimated between $300,000 and $500,000; a large print by Andreas Gursky carried the same estimate. Neither took off. After a few bids, the Sherman sold for $378,000 with premiums. The Gursky sold for $302,400 after what appeared to be a single phone bid.

A sculpture of a horse by Deborah Butterfield from 1990 fared even worse—it had a low estimate of $200,000 and sold for just $100,800 with fees.

On the night itself, the auction floor was nearly filled; the room, unsurprisingly, differed dramatically from the typical evening sale. Fewer men wore blazers; there were fewer women, period. And everyone was in a good mood. Many of the auction house specialists standing on podiums alongside the room wore sparkling jackets, and auctioneer Tash Perrin started the auction wearing giant square rhinestone-covered sunglasses. There was applause after nearly every lot.

As the auction ended and people began to file out, Klimen, who’d bid on multiple lots but won none, had no regrets. “This was such an amazing first auction to ever go to,” she says. “This is such a fun experience. People should do this all the time.”

Wednesday’s auction will be followed by a day sale on Thursday; three online sales will close on Feb. 27; the final three online sales close on Feb. 28.

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Published 22 February 2024, 02:53 IST

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