George Michael’s art collection raises $14.6 million at auction

Written by Lianne Kolirin, CNN

Thousands of George Michael fans lined up around the block to see the late singer’s impressive art collection, before it sold at auction raising more than £11 million ($14,597,000) for charity.

The singer-songwriter, who died suddenly on Christmas Day 2016, was a major supporter of British artists, including the likes of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst.

Michael, who shot to fame in the 1980s as one half of pop band Wham!, amassed a noteworthy and valuable collection during his lifetime.

After his death aged 53, which an inquest attributed to “natural causes,” stories emerged in the British press of Michael’s largely unpublicized but extensive support for many charities.

Proceeds raised from the exhibition’s world tour, which took in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a special multimedia exhibition in London, will now enable his philanthropic work to continue.

"Songbird" by Bridget Riley was among the works sold at the auction.

“Songbird” by Bridget Riley was among the works sold at the auction. Credit: bridget riley/George Michael Collection

Standout pieces from the singer’s collection sold for £9,264,000 ($12,302,590) at an evening auction at the London branch of Christie’s auction house. The balance was raised by online sales.

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in London in 1963, Michael, whose biggest hits included “Careless Whisper,” “Last Christmas” and “Fastlove,” collaborated with many global stars, including Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti.

According to Christie’s website, the collection showed Michael’s “dedication to cutting-edge creativity in every field and reflects his instinctive support of young emerging artistic talent,” many of whom he later befriended.

The pre-sale exhibition attracted over 12,000 visitors, almost a quarter (24%) of whom were new to Christie’s. Bidders from 27 countries registered for the evening auction, reflecting the star’s global appeal.

Every single item of the 60 lots listed in the evening auction — which saw competitive bidding in the saleroom in London and via simulcast from New York, in addition to online — was sold.

Flowers outside the home George Michael on December 27, 2016.

Flowers outside the home George Michael on December 27, 2016. Credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Cristian Albu, co-head of post-war and contemporary of Christie’s, said: “It has been an honor to have been entrusted with The George Michael Collection, a celebration of creativity and adventure, representing an extraordinary period in British culture.”

George Michael’s trustees said they were delighted with the outcome and added: “Philanthropic work was hugely important for George during his lifetime and it was his wish that this work would continue after his passing.”

Jim Lambie’s Careless Whisper set a world auction record, selling for £175,000 ($232,400), over 10 times its presale estimate.

Further funds were raised by the sale of catalogs and limited edition tote bags, which raised in excess of £250,000 ($332,000) for Michael’s ongoing philanthropy.

The sale was led by two iconic Damien Hirst formaldehyde works — The Incomplete Truth and Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, the artist’s powerful re-staging of the image of the Christian martyr and gay icon, which together raised £1,786,500 ($2,372,368).

The collection also included several pieces by Tracey Emin, who according to Christie’s was probably the closest artist to the singer. One of those was George Loves Kenny, a unique neon she created after traveling with the singer on tourand which sold for £347,250 ($461,127).

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