Freddie Mercury: A World Of His Own
In Freddie Mercury: A Life, In His Own Words, the Queen frontman wrote: “I like to be surrounded by splendid things … exquisite clutter.”
Some 30,000 of those things, ranging from a Japanese-lacquered baby grand piano to a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox via his stage costumes, photos, jewellery, books and furniture – including monogrammed glass doors – are on display before being auctioned at Sotheby’s in London.
There’s clutter too: handwritten notes, books, polaroids, ashtrays, homewares, games, ornaments, myriad cat keepsakes …
I had known little of Freddie Mercury, save his penchant for extravagant parties. Never a Queen fan, I’d seen him only on TV and read the ‘wildman’ newspaper scoops of the time, but that was it.
I now know he was a hoarder, an art aficionado and a collector with exquisite, diverse taste. A warm and welcoming host, opening the doors of his home, Garden Lodge in Kensington, to friends for dinners, celebrations and blowouts. An artist beyond his on-stage showmanship.
The scale of the show is mindblowing, arranged over 15 rooms. One is devoted to his love of Japan and its art and culture; another to suitcases, t-shirts and display cases crammed with figurines, drawings and pictures, many testament to his cat obsession.
The room of stage outfits is a sartorial cacophony of velvet, satin and fur, jackets, leotards, catsuits, embroidery. Teri and I were, of course, particularly interested in his footwear and wondered if we’d see platform boots made by Alan Mair. The array includes clogs, high-tops and well-worn ballet flats.
But for me, the most intriguing are the recreations of rooms in his house.
A drawing room with parquet floor, sound system and fully equipped bar. His bedroom with chaise-longue and two five-foot-high French cabinets loaded with porcelain.
The kitchen, the hub of the house with custom-made, Robin Moore Ede-designed table and barrel-shaped stools from which he engineered his day-to-day.
And the dining room, where Freddie hosted regular dinner parties and curry nights.
As a standalone exhibition, it is immense. As a glimpse into the world of a global icon, there can be few better shows. Whether you’re a Freddie fan or not, if you have the chance, go.
Walking through, a woman stopped to chat in front of a lavishly set dining table. A fan, she’d been through the lots and gave us a few examples of what things cost. Then she said: “You could go to any charity shop in the land, buy similar glasses and who’d know whether they once belonged to Freddie Mercury or not?
“In fact,” she said. “When I go on holiday, I’m buying a pair of sunglasses and when I get home I’m putting them in a frame with a note underneath saying ‘Freddie Mercury’s Sunglasses’. Who’ll know?”
Perhaps no one. Other than the person who buys Freddie’s own.
For a gander at the real thing, you can visit up until 5 September, with auctions starting the next day. Of all the auction houses where this could have taken place, why here? As the man himself once said. “The one thing I would really miss if I left Britain would be Sotheby’s.”
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