AP Exclusive: George Michael's art collection up for auction


LONDON (AP) — George Michael left a rich legacy of music — and of visual art.

The musician’s collection of works by some of Britain’s most famous contemporary artists is going up for auction in London next month, auctioneer Christie’s announced Friday.

The sale includes pieces by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and other members of the “Young British Artists” generation who, like Michael, shook up Britain’s creative scene in the 1980s and 90s.

Cristian Albu, co-head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, said the collection is “a portrait of Britain in the 1990s.”

He said Michael wanted “to celebrate a time in which new life was breathed into London,” and began buying works by artists who became personal friends.

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“He was introduced to Tracey Emin and from then everything is history,” Albu said. “Tracey introduced him to the whole gang. … He was going to their studios and they were coming to his concerts.”

More than 200 works will go under the hammer, including Hirst’s “The Incomplete Truth,” a glass case enclosing a dove preserved in formaldehyde, which has an estimated price of 1 million pounds to 1.5 million pounds ($1,280,000 to $1,920,000).

Also up for sale is one of Emin’s self-revealing works, “Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul,” an embroidered blanket with an estimate of 180,000 pounds to 250,000 pounds ($230,400 to $320,000).

The collection includes several pieces by Young British Artists mentor Michael Craig-Martin, including a pop art-style portrait of Michael, commissioned by the musician and estimated at 60,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds ($76,800 to $102,400).

Albu said the collection also reveals Michael’s sense of humor. In 1998, the singer was arrested by an undercover police officer in Los Angeles for lewd conduct in a public toilet. He satirized the potentially career-threatening moment in the song and video “Outside.” He also acquired three works by Craig-Martin: one emblazoned “Sex”; one, called “God,” depicting a urinal; and one of handcuffs.

“He took that moment and he turned it into a joke, and he turned that joke into art,” Albu said.

Christie’s plans to tour the collection internationally before the sale in London on March 14, with stops in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Some lots will also be sold in an online auction running March 8-15.

Michael’s trustees say proceeds will go to continue his philanthropic work.

Michael burst to fame in the 1980s with pop duo Wham! and went on to sell more than 100 million albums around the world. He died on Dec. 25, 2016, aged 53, from heart disease and a build-up of fat in his liver.

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