A celebration of George Michael’s life, his art and his generosity

The George Michael Collection sells for £11,328,125 — including £9,264,000 in a memorable Evening Auction at Christie’s in London — with proceeds going to extend the singer’s extraordinary philanthropic legacy

After a world tour that saw highlights exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and a special multi-media exhibition in London that celebrated George Michael’s life, his music and the art he lived with, standout pieces from the singer’s collection sold for £9,264,000 in a dedicated evening sale at Christie’s King Street headquarters.

The online sale of works from The George Michael Collection, which closed on Friday 15 March, was just as successful, totalling an incredible £2,045,375 — more than five times the pre-sale estimate. Bidders from 52 countries across five continents reflected the continued global appeal of George Michael and the Young British Artists he collected.

The money raised from the sale of The George Michael Collection  will extend the philanthropic legacy he built so generously and so privately during his lifetime.

The pre-sale exhibition at King Street saw thousands of George Michael fans come to see his art, hear his music and enjoy artefacts from his career

The pre-sale exhibition at King Street saw thousands of George Michael fans come to see his art, hear his music and enjoy artefacts from his career

The collection spoke volumes about George Michael, a man who touched millions with his music, his honesty, and his kindness. This was partly due to the autobiographical nature of so many of the works within it, but also because it revealed the extent to which he had supported his fellow British artists. 

For the thousands of fans who flocked to the London exhibition, there was an added dimension: a precious opportunity for communion with their departed hero. They responded by generating a further £250,000 in proceeds through the purchase of limited edition catalogues and tote bags.

The energy was palpable in a packed saleroom at King Street, and among the many bidding online, on the phones and via a live link from Christie’s New York saleroom. The competitive bidding and the fact that every single lot sold were a tribute to both George Michael’s eye for contemporary art and the depth of feeling for an artist whose songbook of classic tracks defined an era. 

Watch the auction in full — for all results, see below

The top prices in the Evening Auction were achieved for works by artists who George Michael knew and collected in depth, or for pieces that had particular resonance with the star.

Jim Lambie (b. 1964), Careless Whisper, executed in 2009. Sold for £175,000 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Jim Lambie (b. 1964), Careless Whisper, executed in 2009. Sold for £175,000 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

The sale was led by two iconic Damien Hirst formaldehyde works — The Incomplete Truth, which George Michael acquired in 2007, sold for £911,250 (including buyer’s premium), while Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, the artist’s powerful re-staging of the image of the Christian martyr and gay icon, realised £875,250. Hirst’s The Immaculate Heart♥Sacred, executed in 2008, cruised past its high estimate before selling for £323,250.

Cecily Brown’s Untitled  inspired multiple bids before being won at £791,250, while Bridget Riley’s Songbird  (1982), the first major work George Michael acquired for the collection, realised the same price after another prolonged battle.

Bridget Riley (b. 1931), Songbird, painted in 1982. Sold for £791,250  on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Bridget Riley (b. 1931), Songbird, painted in 1982. Sold for £791,250 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Of all the artists in the collection, Tracey Emin was perhaps the one who was closest to George Michael. He collected and cherished her work, owning standout pieces such as Hurricane, a 2007 acrylic on canvas, which realised £431,250 against a high estimate of £180,000 — a new auction record for the artist by medium; George Loves Kenny, the unique neon Emin created after travelling with the singer on tour, which drew a huge round of applause when it sold for £347,250; and Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul, an appliqué blanket from 2002, which was bought for £275,000. 
 

Tracey Emin (b. 1963), Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul, executed in 2002. Sold for £275,000  on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Tracey Emin (b. 1963), Drunk to the Bottom of My Soul, executed in 2002. Sold for £275,000 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

In the build-up to the sale, Michael Craig-Martin, who taught many of the leading lights of the YBA generation at Goldsmiths, spoke about his relationship with George Michael and their discussions about ‘the problem of sustained creativity’.

Three large-scale Craig-Martin works all exceeded their high estimates. Untitled (SEX), Untitled (GOD)  and Handcuffs  all speak to the episode in 1998 when George Michael succeeded in turning one of his lowest moments into a personal triumph through a combination of humour, defiance and great music. The works sold for £125,000, £40,000 and £112,500 respectively, while the artist’s Commissioned Portrait Untitled (George), a totemic work in the collection, did even better by reaching £175,000 in the online sale — a new world auction record for the artist. 

Michael Craig-Martin (b. 1941), Handcuffs, painted in 2002. Sold for £112,500 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Michael Craig-Martin (b. 1941), Handcuffs, painted in 2002. Sold for £112,500 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

World auction records were set in the live sale for Jim Lambie, whose Careless Whisper  was a favourite with the crowds at the pre-sale exhibition and produced a flurry of bidding to make £175,000; for Angus Fairhurst, one of the original YBAs, whose bronze gorilla, titled A Couple of Differences Between Thinking and Feeling IIachieved £118,750 (more than double its high estimate); for Harland Miller’s Incurable Romantic Seeks Filthy Dirty Whore, which went for £237,500 after a spirited contest in the saleroom; and for James White with Relationships II, which sold for £22,500.

Harland Miller claimed a further distinction when his Death, What’s in it for Me?  sold for £212,500 online, the top price in the sale. Thirty-one artist auction records were set in the online auction, in which and 64 per cent of registrants were new to Christie’s.

Cerith Wyn Evans (b. 1958), And if I dont meet you no more..., executed in 2006. Sold for £68,750 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

Cerith Wyn Evans (b. 1958), And if I don't meet you no more..., executed in 2006. Sold for £68,750 on 14 March 2019 at Christie’s in London

In the live auction there were strong results, too, for works by Tim Noble & Sue Webster, led by Excessive Sensual Indulgence, one of many works with a title that would have looked at home among the tracks on a George Michael album, which realised £237,500. 

It was fitting, perhaps, that the Evening Auction closed with the poignant And if I don't meet you no more..., a neon by Cerith Wyn Evans, which comfortably set a new artist record by medium when it sold for £68,750. The sentiment expressed in the work has been shared by many who have come to Christie’s over recent weeks to celebrate the life, the music and the generosity of George Michael.