It’s as though time had stopped in Freddie Mercury‘s west London mansion. For three decades following his untimely demise, Mercury’s personal effects, a collection exceeding 1,400 items, lay untouched. From flamboyant stage costumes to his precious Yamaha baby grand piano, the cherished possessions of this iconic Queen frontman are finally stepping out from the shadows. The exhibition, free to the public, is hosted by Sotheby’s London before these items find new owners in a grand auction.
Kept under the careful guardianship of Mary Austin, Mercury’s confidante, the vast collection unfolds an intimate narrative of the singer’s life. “This decision to auction almost all the items is to close this very special chapter in my life and put my affairs in order,” Austin, now 72, revealed in a BBC interview.
Among Mercury’s trove of personal belongings are unseen drafts of legendary hits such as “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “We Are the Champions,” and ”Somebody to Love.” Even the handwritten draft of the seminal “Bohemian Rhapsody,” where Mercury toyed with naming the song “Mongolian Rhapsody,” is up for bidding. This piece of music history could command anywhere from 800,000 to 1.2 million pounds.
Gabriel Heaton, a specialist at the auction house, shared his enthusiasm: “We have here working lyrics for pretty much every song that Freddie Mercury wrote through the 1970s. We’ve got extensive working drafts that really showed how songs developed, how they changed, how they took shape in the most wonderful way.”
Mercury’s prized Yamaha baby grand piano, however, is poised to steal the spotlight. Estimated to sell for 2 million to 3 million pounds, this piano witnessed Mercury’s soaring career from 1975 till his demise. Heaton remarked, “Of all the objects that he had, this is the one that meant the most to him.”
The exhibition showcases the breadth of Freddie Mercury’s eclectic tastes and passion for grandeur. From his sequinned catsuits, lavish red cape and crown from his last Queen performance in 1986, to his collection of Japanese silk kimonos, Mercury’s love for theatre and flamboyance shine through. However, there are other, more personal artifacts too: a school book from the 1960s with the singer’s name, Fred Bulsara, intricate dinner party seating plans, handwritten invitations to his famous birthday parties, even his art collection featuring works by Picasso, Dali, and Chagall.
As per Sotheby’s furniture and decorative arts specialist, Thomas Williams, Mercury once wrote: “I like to be surrounded by splendid things. I want to lead a Victorian life, surrounded by exquisite clutter.” It’s evident in his collection of antique furniture and cat figurines that he lived true to this statement.
In a first, Sotheby’s has transformed its entire central London building into a shrine to Freddie Mercury, devoting all 15 galleries to his story. According to Williams, it’s probably their “most democratic sale,” with items such as Mercury’s chopsticks and sewing kit starting as low as under 100 pounds.
The exhibition, titled “Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own,” opens Friday and runs until Sept. 5. Following this, the collection will go under the hammer in a series of auctions. Prospective buyers could include institutions like museums, along with Mercury’s vast global fanbase. Addressing queries if these rare objects would be better displayed in a museum, Williams noted that Freddie Mercury “didn’t want a stuffy museum,” adding that this kind of sale was absolutely what he would have loved.
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