DThursday morning starts slowly in the Sotheby’s auction room in Cologne. Advertising posters from before the First World War are sold from the estate of Karl Lagerfeld. The couturier loved early 20th century German prints: advertisements for AEG, for Wilhelm Braun’s “Bespoke Fashion and Sport” store in Munich, for Degea electric irons, for the “Die Elf Scharfrichter” cabaret. Walter Schnackenberg, Lucian Bernhard, Bruno Paul, Ludwig Hohlwein: No one had a bigger collection of modern advertising posters. Had: Because the fashion designer died in 2019, his manager is still rummaging through apartments and houses that are full of designer furniture, books, artwork, posters, drawings, costumes, jewelry, sunglasses, iPod. If a few hundred pieces go up for auction, the chaos might clear up a bit.
Many advertising posters hung in Lagerfeld’s villa at Louveciennes west of Paris, which he furnished in the style of the 1910s and 1920s in the last years of his life. Pierre Mothes, “vice-president” of the French branch of Sotheby’s, who examined everything, quickly realized that the posters hanging upstairs in the hallway were to be offered in Germany, in the new Sotheby’s building in the Palais Cologne Oppenheim. Thus, after the real estate auctions in Monaco and Paris in December, the house of Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer in the Bayenthal district is somehow inaugurated with the auction of 236 additional lots. This is just as well because the banker Emil von Oppenheim had the magnificent villa built in 1908 on Parisian models.
“The estimates are exceeded by a factor of three”
The auctioneer is standing in front of the lectern, holding the gavel, but it only descends after an artificial pause, the online auction scrolls across a screen, a few bidders are seated in the audience, nine women and one man on the wall on the right with customers at the other end of the line, and on the left at the window the Rhine flows lazily. When a poster of Emil Pirchan (“Solstice Celebration”) goes up for auction, the auctioneer exclaims, “Oh, we’ve got another one.” The audience laughs. It’s starting slow, there’s a lot to do, so you’re grateful for your encouragement. The posters are all sold above the estimated price (800 to 1200 euros).
It only gets exciting when it gets more personal: twelve designer sunglasses (estimate 300/500 euros) are sold for 4500 euros; a Steiff teddy bear in the Lagerfeld look (800/1000) brings in 9,500 euros; twelve additional sunglasses (300/500) then even cost 5800 euros. Then there is the supplement, of course.
Pierre Mothes, who came from Paris, is in a good mood. Wednesday’s evening auction with 57 lots has already yielded 501,400 euros: “The estimates have been exceeded by three.” The auctions in Monaco and Paris, with many more lot numbers and some spectacular offers such as the Rolls-Royce Phantom (436,000) and the Phantom Drophead (375,500) even brought in 18.2 million euros. The highlight of Wednesday in Cologne: the color lithograph “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” by Fritz Rotstadt for 163,800 euros (including costs).
Chanel is probably on the other end of the line
Lot 78 starts the next morning: “The Count and the Aunt”, three drawings by Lagerfeld from the tales of Eduard von Keyserling “Schwüle Tage” (600/800). Art consultant Caroline Lescure-Hebrard wins the auction with her telephone bidder at 19,000 against numerous online auctions. Lot 79, five drawings, “Elegante Damen und Herren”, circa 1950 (300/500), fetches 20,000. Now it’s going up fast. Five other “figures and portraits” (300/500) total 22,000; the next, also printed around 1950, at 30,000; five others, from 1949, after Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, already at 50,000. Intermediate applause in the room. “There’s always another chance,” the auctioneer tells online bidders, as the woman with the phone to her ear has won the auction. But Caroline Lescure-Hebrard is once again the star, with a wink: Lot 83, five drawings on “War and Peace” and “Elective Affinities”, from 1949, also still with the signature “KOL” (Karl Otto Lagerfeld – the Otto he then omitted). 75,000 euros plus supplement: applause.
Who does the art consultant with the thick glasses have online? The tenderer number is L0056. But more detailed inquiries are only answered here with a smile. Personal writing is particularly appreciated in this case. In all likelihood, at the other end of the line is Chanel, the brand Lagerfeld worked for from 1982 until his death. They had also struck in Monaco and Paris, as confirmed by the president of Chanel, Bruno Pavlovsky, to the FAZ. With the acquisition of the designs, Chanel would empty the market and create a basis for publications and exhibitions – the studio in Lagerfeld rue de Lille, a possible exhibition location, has already been secured by Chanel. The highlight of the Cologne auction then goes in the same direction on Thursday afternoon: Lagerfeld’s portrait of his partner Jacques de Bascher “with long hair”, that is to say with long hair (500/800 ), brings in 65,520 euros, again by telephone.
As for the jackets, auctions remain blocked. About 2,000 euros, which is about as much as the jackets cost in stores. Chances are Lagerfeld actually wore them, because although he had hundreds of jackets, he changed them far more often than you would think given his supposedly uniform style. By the way, L0056 has no interest in jackets. No wonder, because they are from Dior. And of Saint Laurent – of course since the time when Lagerfeld’s intimate enemy, Yves Saint Laurent, was no longer a designer there.