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Vintage & Auctions

The Non-Horological Highlights from Christie’s “The Collection of Elton John: Goodbye Peachtree Road” Auction

This weekend, we’re putting Sir Elton’s timepieces into context by celebrating his eclectic clothing, fashion, art, and décor collections.

By Rhonda Riche

Of course, our interest in Christie’s “The Collection of Elton John: Goodbye Peachtree Road” was piqued by his insane collection of bold and beautiful luxury watches. But these watches are just a piece of the singer and songwriter’s story, and the beauty of this sale is that this collection of clothing, fashion, art, and décor presents an intimate peek into Sir Elton’s American life.

Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, moved into a condo at 2660 Peachtree Road in Atlanta in 1991. Of course, John also kept homes in Los Angeles, London, Venice, and the south of France, with each place serving as a mini museum for his collections; however, the Rocket Man’s time in Atlanta represents a turning point in his career, making many of the items he collected in that home even more special.

In fact, there was so much auction-worthy stuff that Christie’s had to split it up into eight different sales, each containing a mix of costumes, jewels, and art (as well as watches). Here are our favorites from each catalog.

Opening Night

When Elton John first appeared on the scene in the late 1960s, he was not a particularly flashy entertainer, especially when compared to his contemporaries like David Bowie and Alice Cooper. But by the time “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was released in 1973, shiny stage costumes, towering platform boots, and over-the-top sunglasses became his signatures.

This ivory and gold ensemble by British textile designer Annie Reavey, featuring a short jacket with a green-shirred elasticated waist, star-shaped padded collar, and hems of multi-colored padded lurex, edged with green and yellow ribbon ruffle, from the Opening Night sale is an excellent example of peak Captain Fantastic.

The team commissioned Reavey to design and produce 12 stage outfits for his 1972 tour. In fact, when John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin opened their Rocket Record offices just a year later, Reavey was invited to paint murals and a piano.

The outfit, which also made an appearance in the 2019 film Rocketman, comes with matching trousers (plus an alternative pair of green tartan lurex trousers) and a yellow satin short-sleeved shirt covered in multi-colored crayon “Elton” signatures. The suit sold for $12,600.

The Day Sale

In advance of the auction exhibition, Watchonista spoke to Rémi Guillemin, Head of Watches at Christie’s in Geneva and New York, about the thrill of seeing not just some terrific timepieces but also seeing them in the context of his other collections from his Peachtree days.

“What I really enjoy about single-owner collections is that they enable us to get a further understanding of the collector,” Guillemot told Watchonista. “It’s more than a collection; it’s part of the story of Elton John.”

The Peachtree era, for example, coincides with the end of his drug addiction (Sir Elton has been sober since 1990). But since the beginning of his career, John dealt with multiple addictions – including shopping – as well as bulimia and anger management issues (check out the 1997 documentary Tantrums & Tiaras for insight into these tumultuous times), and becoming sober helped John focus his collecting, especially when it comes to photography.

Thus, one of the highlights of the second sale, The Day Sale, is the work of the legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon (1923–2004). It’s a treat to see collected works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Horst, but this image – Sunny Harnett, Evening Dress by Grès, Casino, Le Touquet, August 1954 – is a masterpiece on its own. It even acts as a throughline between Sir Elton’s passion for fashion and photography.

The estimate for this indelible image was $30,000 to $50,000 and sold for $44,100.

Out of the Closet

“The majority of the collection is about bold statements,” added Guillemot, and as an example, he offered up lot 327, a one-of-a-kind, 18K diamond and gem set Piaget Tanagra from the early ’90s. Guillemot continued: “It was very loud for the time. But Elton John has a unique personality that speaks to a diverse group of people. People appreciate what he stands for.”

No matter how fanciful John’s fashion choices may seem, each piece in this sale is impeccably made. For example, this pair of boots from the Out of the Closet sale is so well crafted that they can be considered sculptures.

Made by Milwaukee-based manufacturer Nunn Bush, these customized twentieth-century black leather platform boots represent John’s ties to Americana. Bidding for these booties closed at $15,120.

Love, Lust and Devotion

Elton John is an everything collector. His passions include modern photography and rare glass objects. He is also an amazing patron of young artists. And one of the most emotional artworks in the Love, Lust and Devotion catalog is an installation called Trayvon Martin (Sanford, Florida – February 26, 2012), from the series: “Remnants of the Human Condition” by the artist Joseph Guay (b. 1971).

John and Furnish originally chose Atlanta as their American base it was because it was a great center of operations for cross-country tours. But they grew to love the place, filling it with work by American artists. This work serves as an example of John’s devotion to social issues. This work sold for $4,410.

Elton’s Superstars

As evidenced throughout this eight-day auction, photography has been the main thrust of Elton John’s collection. But his pictorial portfolio is framed by many sub-collections, including portraiture.

So, even though Sir Elton is a superstar himself, it’s clear, at least from the catalog for the Elton’s Superstars sale, that he enjoys being surrounded by other celebrities. Of all these famous faces, this 1948 image of the surrealist painter Salvador Dali best captures the unique connection between persona and art.

Called Dalí Atomicus by Philippe Halsman (1906-1979), this photo is chaos personified, which feels very Elton. The hammer price for this signed gelatin silver print was $13,860.

The Jewel Box

Okay, we were going to stay away from timepieces, but these lapis, leather, and wood Cartier Desk Clocks from The Jewel Box sale have an important place in Elton John’s Atlanta story.

The Peachtree residence was both opulently staged but also a home (albeit the home of one of our greatest entertainers). It makes perfect sense that John’s décor sensibility would have three silver-plated Cartier desk clocks scattered casually about.

Weirdly, these timekeepers make John’s lifestyle almost relatable – they are the kind of practical décor you would find in your mom’s house if your mom had a thing for Cartier.

Considering John’s Cartier Crash sold for $277,200 (four times the low estimate of $70,000), this lot also sold for a relatively reasonable $5,292.

Elton’s Versace

In the 1990s, Elton John’s extravagance was matched only by the opulence of the late Italian designer Gianni Versace. That’s why we’re delighted by this pair of Louis XVI style, silvered wood side chairs by Sally Sirkin Lewis for J. Robert Scott and Associates.

Sirkin, who is credited with pioneering the “California” style of the 1970s, is famous for her luxurious interiors that draw upon the finishes of haute couture and historical architecture. Upholstered in an exuberant Versace-designed chinoiserie cotton velvet, this duo sold for $11,340.

Honkey Château

Because John’s time in the Atlanta residence spanned three decades, his collections contain everything from Dust Bowl photography to Banksy’s Flower Thrower Triptych, a work Elton John acquired directly from the artist and which sold for $1,925,500. But in between are excellent examples of artists who deserve more flowers in fine art culture.

“Two Torsos” (1994) by Richard Jolley (b. 1952) is a pair of colorful glass sculptures found in the catalog for the Honky Château sale. Jolley’s work deals with themes of organic forms to explore the breadth of the human experience, from the body to nature to science. In the context of the rest of the lots in this sale, these expressive figures feel quite comfortable amongst the costumes and furnishings.

They also provide insight into John’s collecting methods. Not only was John interested in patronizing American artists, but he also acquired this piece directly from Atlanta’s Fay Gold Gallery. What makes this artwork feel even more representative of John’s sensibility is that it reveals that John was not a carpetbagger; he truly connected to Atlanta.

So, while Jolley might not have the name recognition of the Warhols, Harings, and Horsts in the sale, this piece is a nice representation of John’s taste.

The final price for this assemblage was $10,710.

(Front image © John Angellilo/UPI. All images © Christie's)

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Hello, Goodbye: Sir Elton John’s Collection of Luxury Watches Gets Auctioned Off by Christie’s

By Rhonda RicheEditor-At-Large
Christie’s New York put 31 of Sir Elton’s greatest horological hits under the hammer. Here are the most amazing auction results.