Yves Saint Laurent Art Collection To Be Auctioned

It's being billed as the biggest private art collection ever put on auction — and it happens Monday in Paris. The collection was owned by the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge. The auction includes a Picasso valued at $37 million.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. In a couple of minutes, we'll check in on the Oscars.

One man who knew how to dress a star was designer Yves Saint Laurent. The fashion master died last year after amassing a remarkable art collection with his partner, Pierre Berge. That collection, valued as high as $400 million, will be sold at auction tomorrow night in Paris.

If it attracts that much cash, it will be the biggest private art collection ever sold at auction. Parisians flocked to see the collection this weekend. Reporter Anita Elash was one of them.

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language)

ANITA ELASH: The Grand Palais Exhibit Hall in Paris is packed to the rafters. Thousands of people have come to see the 733 pieces of art on display.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, his partner in life and in business, collected the pieces over their 50 years together. Jacques Myer(ph) has flown in from Montreal just to have a look.

Mr. JACQUES MYER: The work in the (unintelligible) are very interesting, and this is the only place where you can see them because after that, you know, some collectors or some wealthy people are going to buy them, and it won't be possible to see them again.

ELASH: When Saint Laurent was alive, every piece of art they owned was on display in one of his and Berge's two Paris apartments. The works range from African primitive art to a Picasso valued at $37 million.

The international art market is suffering because of the economic crisis, but Christie's auction house still expects to get decent prices. Jonathan Rendell is with Christie's.

Mr. JONATHAN RENDELL (Christie's Auction House): We also have some of the greatest works of art that have been offered in the last 20 years. The reaction has been very good from clients. We're cautiously optimistic about how the sale will go.

ELASH: Berge says part of the money will go to AIDS research. The rest will pay for the foundation that looks after Saint Laurent's fashions. For NPR News, I'm Anita Elash in Paris.

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