The personal collection of writer and tastemaker André Leon Talley, the late Vogue magazine editor, fashion icon and glass ceiling breaker, soared past expectations and delivered a white-glove tally of $1.1m ($1.3m with fees) for the 64 lots at Christie’s Wednesday (15 February). All net proceeds mutually benefit the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and the Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.
The sale’s total tally easily crushed the high end of pre-sale estimates, pegged at $445,900. Additional lots are being offered online through today (16 February).
The exuberant and festively dressed crowd of Talley fans at Rockefeller Center applauded after almost every lot that obliterated estimates, as demonstrated by the first lot, a set of three straw boater hats from Lock & Co. Hatters (sizes 58 and 59) that hit $4,800 ($6,048 with fees), far ahead of their $800 high estimate.
Photographs of Talley over the years played a big part of the action, as Colin Douglas Gray’s 2020 image of the storied wordsmith and pundit poised in a straw boater hit $5,205 ($6,615 with fees), more than ten times its high estimate of $500.
“This is Black History Month,” said buyer Rashim Shimra Turner, “and I want my daughter, who I home school, to have a piece of history.” His nine-year-old daughter sat by his side during the bidding battle.
Bill Cunningham’s black-and-white photograph Diana Vreeland and André Leon Talley from 1974 made $10,500 ($13,230 with fees), eclipsing its $600 high estimate, and Horst P. Horst’s Diana Vreeland, New York from 1979 shot to $26,000 ($32,750 with fees), multiplying its pre-sale estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. Vreeland hired Talley as a personal assistant during her time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and mentored him to stardom.
Andy Warhol’s fantasy portrait, Diana Vreeland Rampant (after Jacques Louis David, Napoleon at St. Bernard), a screenprint from 1984, realised $75,000 ($94,500 with fees), outperforming its high estimate of $50,000 by half.
Of three undated Yves Saint Laurent collages, Profiles, inscribed to Talley and signed “Yves”, made $16,000 ($20,160 with fees), double its high estimate of $8,000.
Luggage also brought on big numbers as evidenced by a set of three personalised brown monogram lacquered canvas hardsided suitcases from Louis Vuitton around 1990, which sold to an online bidder for $75,000 ($94,500 with fees), leaps and bounds above the $4,000 high estimate. A pair of limited-edition graffiti monogram canvas hardsided briefcases by Stephen Sprouse from Louis Vuitton, made around 2001 and gifted to Talley by designer Marc Jacobs, went for $55,000 ($69,300 with fees), more than nine times the $6,000 high estimate.
The only oil-on-canvas work in the hours-long auction, Kimberly Cole Moore’s Portrait of André Leon Talley (2020), featuring Talley seated papally in the style of the Velázquez masterpiece, Portrait of Innocent X (around 1650), in a throne-like chair and clothed in billowing white fabric, brought $12,000 ($15,120 with fees) against a pre-sale estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.
From Talley’s considerable and often over-the-top-wardrobe, a gold embroidered bullfighter bolero by Jean Paul Gaultier from 1991, a runway-only piece, made $8,500 ($10,710 with fees, against an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000). A fantastic gold brocade caftan by Harlem legend Dapper Dan from around 2007 set off another bidding battle that took the garment, which Talley wore at Carolina Herrera’s New York Fashion Week show in 2020 to $13,000 ($16,380 with fees), well above its $2,000 high estimate.
Dapper Dan was a Talley protégé who brought high fashion to the hip-hop world and was included among Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list for 2020.
A blue silk satin kimono designed by Tom Ford for Gucci from around 2002 and gifted by Ford to Talley, along with the original Gucci box and a personal note by Ford, went for $11,000 ($13,860 with fees) to another online bidder.
If one lot said it all in terms of Talley’s bespoke career, it was Jonathan Becker’s 24-by-24-inch photograph, André Leon Talley, Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres, on the Pont Alexandre II, Paris (2013), with the larger-than-life figure poised in tux and floral robe with the Eiffel Tower in the backdrop. It fetched $20,000 ($25,200 with fees), more than 11 times its $1,800 high estimate.
The image was also the cover for Talley’s 2020 memoir, The Chiffon Trenches.