Amazing: The George Michael Collection

Amazing: The George Michael Collection
Rating: *****
Christie’s
London SW1
Review date: Sunday 10th March 2019

Sunday morning brunch in the West End of London. Sounds good. That in itself would have been a novelty, but I attended novelty to beat all novelties as I headed into town last Sunday 10th March 2019 to view The George Michael Collection. As big a fan as I am I didn’t even know there was such a thing until last week-end. Speaking to other super fans of the late star at the viewing, it seems this has come as quite a surprise too them and many fans as it transpires that George Michael was quite a prolific art connoisseur and collector who went on to amass one of the world’s largest personal art collections.

He took a particular interest in modern British art by Young British Artists. His interest was originally piqued by Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. One of the chief curator’s and appropriately named Christie’s Director, Mr Cristian Albu, told an amusing story of how George Michael’s interest was first knocked back. He paid a visit to Tracey Emin hoping to meet with her to discuss her art. He knocked on her door and she said she’s not open for visitors. He replied, “But I’m George Michael!” She retorted, “I don’t care. We’re closed!!” I can’t imagine many people would have declined a personal visit from George Michael. Not even the “don’t you know who I am line” worked on Tracy Emin, regardless of the fact your name is George Michael!!

George Michael

Nonetheless, George Michael wasn’t to be deterred for too long and he returned again, during opening hours (lesson learned) and struck up and developed an enduring long term relationship with Tracey forged on his love of art. She introduced him to the art of the Goldsmith College set and from then on it was buy, buy, buy, as he snapped up a great deal of art over the next 2 decades.

The George Michael Collection is an educational, visual, written and aural masterpiece of showmanship, featuring an amaxing array of art and iconic memorabilia that I’m certain the man himself would have been immensely proud of. It felt more like being in an art gallery, not an auction house preparing for a major auction. As stated on one of the display’s, George Michael was ever the perfectionist. This was best exemplified in one of his career highlights, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Show at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1992. One written profile stated that in contrast to many stars who spent just a single afternoon preparing for their set, George Michael spent a good 5 days perfecting his three Queen tribute numbers to such a brilliant extent that his impassioned rendition of ‘Somebody to Love’ was the stand out, show stealing performance of the day.

This viewing, not unexpectedly seeing as it was held at Christie’s, had world class stamped all over it; from the ornate staircase that greeted you as you walk in, resplendent with the image of hundreds of people screened onto it. Fans will recognise the images being the artwork for the 1990 album ‘Listen without Prejudice Volume 1’, George Michael’s second solo album.

The walls of Christie’s were literally wall to wall with fantastic art. Additionally, one of the areas I loved most of all was right at the top of the entrance staircase where one of the more literary spaces in the exhibition tracked his journey from schoolboy to popstar with Wham! to solo star, right through to the later years of his pop career that culminated in the prestigious 2012 Symphonica show at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

The collection was filled with lots of lovely, detailed nuggets of information as well as witty and insightful quotes from George Michael such as “I don’t need the approval or people who don’t approve of me.

Accompanying all of this was of course a background soundtrack of George Michael and Wham! That was a fitting and terrific accompaniment to the collection, which effectively was a great, extensive and detailed journey through some of the most iconic images and stages of his long career, including the outlandish black and red costumes worn in the Freeek! (2002) video and the famous black “speaker” chair from fast love (1996). The chair was set on a simple, tiny podium in small room all on its own, with George Michael videos playing in the background.

Black chair from Fast Love video

It was quite eerie and extremely poignant to view this. To think that George Michael used to sit on that chair. Now resolutely empty with just his music playing in the background. At different junctures of The Collection you would get that sense as you viewed the clothes and other famous artefacts that appeared in videos over the years.

The prices of the artwork were breathtaking, with many pieces well into the high £1,000’s right up to £1.5 list estimate for Damien Hurst’s ‘The Incomplete Truth’ (2006) featuring a dove hovering in formaldehyde.

This is going to be an historic, once in a lifetime auction. Good luck to all bidding for items on Thursday 14th March 2019. There is also an online auction, for not only the main artwork, but also many lower valued artwork too.

George Michael Freeek! video outfit

When he passed away a number of George Michael’s secret and vast acts of philanthropy came to light. Many loved the fact he had quietly and secretly used his vast wealth to help others far less fortunate than him. It was lovely to hear another new fact in Cristian Albu’s talk that George Michael had decided that royalties from the song ‘Jesus to a Child’ would, in perpetuity, be granted to Childline.

It was also wonderful to hear him announce that the proceeds from the auction will go to, as yet un-named, worthy causes. So effectively he didn’t just buy this art for art’s sake or as a “personal” investment, he did it to benefit others once he departed this earth.

In a quote from the exhibition he is remembered as saying: “Most of us want to leave something. I want to leave songs.” George Michael on Top of the Pops, 1982. He would have been a mere teenager of 19 at that time. Well he undoubtedly achieved that goal and a whole lot more too as The George Michael Collection demonstrably showcased.

The George Michael Collection is open to the general public at Christie’s London until Friday 15th March 2019, with the auction taking place on the evening of 14th March 2019.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links:

  1. George Michael Honoured with Blue Plaque at Former High School – 8th June 2018
  2. Tribute poem read at Bushey Meads High School plaque unveiling – Steve Stunt – 15th April 2018
  3. Faith: The George Michael Legacy Lives on by Wayne Dilks  – 19th October 2017
  4. Fans Flock to George Michael Memorial Service – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 1st May 2017
  5. Symphonica concert review – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 19th October 2012

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