Auction house Sotheby's has announced that around 1,500 items from late QUEEN singer Freddie Mercury's London home will be displayed in exhibitions around the world for the first time throughout 2023, with some going up for sale in September. An estimated 1,500 items will be sold over the course of six auctions and are expected to bring in more than £6 million ($7.4 million).
In a Sotheby's press release, Mercury's close friend Mary Austin, who has cared for the items for more than 30 years at his former Garden Lodge home in upmarket Kensington, said she decided it was time to let the items go.
"For many years now, I have had the joy and privilege of living surrounded by all the wonderful things that Freddie sought out and so loved," Austin said in a statement. "But the years have passed, and the time has come for me to take the difficult decision to close this very special chapter in my life.
"Freddie was an incredible and intelligent collector who showed us that there is beauty and fun and conversation to be found in everything," she added. "I hope [the upcoming events] will be an opportunity to share all the many facets of Freddie, both public and private, and for the world to understand more about, and celebrate, his unique and beautiful spirit."
When Freddie died in 1991, he left both the house and its contents to Mary, his former girlfriend and lifelong friend. For three decades, Austin kept the house and its contents almost exactly as they were when Mercury died, but she has now decided to sell the collection.
A highlight of the sale will be Freddie Mercury's handwritten working lyrics to one of QUEEN's greatest anthems, "We Are The Champions", including harmonies and chords, written across nine pages. Also available are the previously unseen working lyrics to "Killer Queen", written on a single sheet of paper in black Biro in 1974.
In an interview with BBC News, Mary said the pages of lyrics and musical notes are particularly difficult to part with. "You're looking at the process of the artist, of work in progress," she explained. "The crossings out, the rethinking, the reformatting. ... I decided that it wouldn't be appropriate for me to keep things back. If I was going to sell, I had to be brave and sell the lot."
In addition to draft song lyrics. the items in the sale will include: pink, star-shaped glasses similar to the dark pair Mercury wore in the music video for his band's 1977 classic "We Will Rock You"; his tiny Tiffany & Co. mustache comb; his guitar, believed to have been used to write and record "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"; the waistcoat Mercury wore in his final music video, "These Are The Days Of Our Lives", in 1991; and a Pablo Picasso linocut titled "Jacqueline Au Chapeau Noir".
David MacDonald, the head of single owner sales at Sotheby's London, said: "Freddie Mercury's collection is a manifestation of one extraordinary man's creativity, taste and unerring eye for beauty, presenting so much more than just an exquisite selection of the very best examples by artists across centuries and countries. Like a Russian doll, Garden Lodge has revealed its layers of treasures over recent months, with the rich tapestry of objects we have discovered there taking us all on a glorious adventure through his imagination. Opening the door to the very special place that was Freddie Mercury's home offers us the ultimate backstage pass into his world."
The exhibition with Mercury's items will head to Sotheby's New York in June, then visit Sotheby's Los Angeles and Sotheby's Hong Kong, before returning to London. The Sotheby's London gallery with Mercury's collection will open on August 4 and close on what would have been his 77th birthday on September 5.
Following the exhibition, there will be a live sale on September 6, in which the most significant items from his collection will be sold, followed by six auctions with various themes: "On Stage," "At Home," "In Love with Japan," "Crazy Little Things" Part One and "Crazy Little Things" Part Two.
Austin will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sales to HIV/AIDS charities the Mercury Phoenix Trust and the Elton John Aids Foundation.