George Michael's art collection put up for auction

Works range from a portrait of the singer to a Damien Hirst piece that could fetch £1.5m

A colour and mood-changing portrait of George Michael by Michael Craig-Martin and a dove preserved in formaldehyde by Damien Hirst are among 200 artworks owned by the singer to be auctioned in London.

Christie’s announced on Friday that it was selling Michael’s collection of art, including pieces by many members of the Young British Artists generation such as Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Marc Quinn and Hirst.

Estimates of what the works will fetch in the sale range from as little as £400 to £1.5m for the Hirst piece, a 2.2-metre vitrine featuring a floating dove, called The Incomplete Truth. An edition of the work featured in Tate Modern’s Hirst retrospective in 2012.

Trustees of Michael’s estate said all the money raised would go to good causes. “Philanthropic work was hugely important for George during his lifetime and it was his wish that this work would continue after his passing,” they said in a statement.

Cristian Albu, of Christie’s, said the auction house was honoured to be handling the sale. He called the collection “a portrait of Britain in the 1990s”.

Michael Craig-Martin’s portrait of George Michael
A crop of Michael Craig-Martin’s portrait of George Michael. Photograph: Christie's

Albu said Michael’s introduction to Emin was a pivotal moment. “She introduced him to the entire YBA community, he met the whole Goldsmiths’ gang and this is how the idea of collecting started. They were a family, everybody cared about everybody.”

Michael often chose works because of their title, said Albu. Hirst’s The Incomplete Truth could be one of Michael’s songs; or an Emin embroidered blanket, Drunk to the bottom of my soul, which is being sold with an estimate of £180,000-£250,000.

Another work in the collection, a particular favourite that Michael hung in his bedroom, is Songbird by Bridget Riley, an oil-on-linen painting from 1982 that is being sold with an estimate of £400,000-£600,000.

“He bought works which resonated with him,” said Albu. “People like Tracey Emin, they were rebels and he felt a bit of himself in these artists.”

Craig-Martin taught many of the YBAs at Goldsmiths and is considered something of a guru to them. Michael was a fan and commissioned Craig-Martin to create portraits of him and his partner Kenny Goss for which the artist used software to continually change colours and mood. So for a moment Michael might be smiling with with peach hair, bluish face and lavender goatee, the next moment he won’t.

It is being sold with an estimate of £40,000-£60,000.

Michael became famous with Andrew Ridgeley in Wham! in the 1980s and went on to sell more than 100m albums as a solo artist. He died as a result of heart and liver disease on Christmas Day 2016, aged 53.

It emerged after his death how much good work he had done, such as giving millions to Childline – including the future royalties to Jesus to a Child – and working anonymously at a homeless shelter.

Christie’s said key works in the collection would go on tour to New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai before the main sale on 14 March. There will be an online sale of the lower-value works from 8-15 March.

Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s president, said: “George Michael was a much-admired creative genius of the music industry and the viewing of over 200 works of art from the private collection will provide a fascinating insight into the broader tastes of a man who was deeply admired all over the world.”


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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