On September 6 2023, the late Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury’s belongings will go to auction at Sotheby’s in London. The collection surpasses even the dreams of superfans, from lyrics scribbled on scrap paper (which later became world famous chart-topping songs), to tour merchandise tees he has worn, and rare antique sofas scratched by his pet cat.
“We have seen a lot of interest from China,” says Sotheby's Cataloguer Fenella Theis. “There is a huge interest from Asia generally. We've had people flying over from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Beijing just for this exhibition.”
Though the lot with the highest estimate is the grand piano, on which the music artist composed every one of his songs up until he passed away in 1991, smaller personal items such as clothing are expected to sell well too, especially considering his seismic influence on the fashion industry.
As one of the first to welcome the notion of ungendered clothing, Mercury flitted between dresses and deep v-neck cuts, and embellished high-octane glamor on stage. The flares featuring in the Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own auction are mimicked across many runways today, from that of 16 Arlington and Martine Rose, to Gucci and Prada.
“The trends having a resurgence at the moment reflect Freddie’s style,” says Theis. “Flares, jumpsuits, and platform shoes are being worn by people and designers referencing the 1970s. This sale might even influence designers because this whole capsule of clothing has been hidden away for 30 years. The dialogue is definitely expected to continue.”
Other signatures of Mercury’s are frequently seen across some of the most esteemed luxury fashion houses, such as Balmain frequently featuring sequined, sharp shouldered jackets in collections, or the tight jumpsuits that have come to define Mugler.
When clothing reaches an auction such as this, though, it instantly loses its initial function, moving from consumer good to collector’s item. Band tees that Mercury might have worn hanging out at his sanctuary, the Garden Lodge in Kensington, become sacred memorabilia worth a once-unfathomable price premium.
“The Bohemian Rhapsody lyrics are expected to go for $800,000 to $1.2 million, but we could easily see them going for multiples,” Theis says.
With an auction such as this, the value lies in the hyper-exclusivity of possessing something owned by a late icon, along with the moment in pop culture history these items represent.
The extensive nature of the sale and meteoric price tags reflect the intense interest fan culture and late artist estates generate. Humans crave connection, particularly to stars that have made them feel something — that is a concept that luxury brands, in China and the rest of the world, can learn a lot from.