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André Leon Talley's belongings, including capes and art, net $3.5 million at auction

André Leon Talley arrives at the 2011 Met Gala. Hundreds of items of clothing, artwork, accessories, furniture belonging to the late fashion journalist fetched more than $3.5 million at auction this week.
Evan Agostini
André Leon Talley arrives at the 2011 Met Gala. Hundreds of items of clothing, artwork, accessories, furniture belonging to the late fashion journalist fetched more than $3.5 million at auction this week.

The late fashion journalist and icon André Leon Talley was known for his discerning taste and larger-than-life presence.

The creative director and editor-at-large of American Vogue, who died in January 2022 at age 73, famously draped his 6-foot-6-inch frame in bespoke suits, robes, capes and caftans.

So it was only fitting that many of those signature pieces were among the hundreds of his personal items that Christie's auctioned off this week, which ended up fetching more than $3.5 million altogether.

Christie's said in a release that more than 2,000 registrants from 47 countries participated in the two auctions, one live and the other virtual.

"It was especially gratifying to see the interest that generated astonishingly high bids across the board," said Elizabeth Seigel, Christie's head of private and iconic collections. "The Collection of André Leon Talley is a testament to his impeccable taste and Christie's is thrilled to have helped achieve such strong results."

The first collection — whose 66 lots included paintings by famous artists, custom-made caftans, gem-studded jewelry and designer luggage — fetched nearly $1.4 million in New York on Wednesday. A longer-running online auction of 350 lots of clothing, artwork, accessories, home furnishings and other items brought in more than $2 million when it closed on Thursday.

Proceeds from both auctions will benefit the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York and Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., which the auction house says "were close to Mr. Talley's heart."

Talley, the first Black man to hold his position at Vogue, grew up in segregated Durham and traced his interest in fashion back to attending church with his grandmother as a child.

His legendary career would go on to include stints at Interview Magazine, W, The New York Times and Women's Wear Daily, as well as close friendships with other giants of art and fashion.

The auction featured many of their works — from Andy Warhol paintings to Karl Lagerfeld sketches to photographs of former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.

"The collection is both glamourous and intimate, reflecting his decades-long relationships with fellow icons including Karl Lagerfeld, Diane von Furstenberg, Ralph Rucci, Tom Ford, Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour," Christie's said.

Across both collections, final bids ranged from $756 (for 10 pairs of "various leather, wool or kid gloves") to $94,500 (for two Warhol paintings, one of which was of Vreeland, and a set of three personalized Louis Vuitton suitcases).

Other highlights included a Vivienne Westwood cloak printed with the words "climate revolution," complete with a long train ($32,760) and an Antonio Lopez sketch of Talley with Vreeland and designer Paloma Picasso ($25,200).

And many of the items far exceeded their pre-sale estimates, according to Christie's.

A Christian Dior wool coat was expected to fetch $1,000, but ultimately sold for $40,320. A red "sleeping bag" coat by Norma Kamali went for $25,200, which the auction house says is 50 times its low estimate of $500.

The bright, oversize coat may look familiar, especially to anyone who watched Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show.

Rihanna wore a puffy red coat during part of her performance, which many interpreted as a tribute to Talley. The two apparently shared a mutual admiration, as evidenced by recently resurfaced video of Talley fawning over Rihanna's outfit at the 2015 Met Gala.

Talley's official Instagram account, which has remained active, celebrated her before the show by sharing a video of the two talking and embracing. And it followed up later with a nod to her outfit: a picture of Talley in his iconic red coat, captioned with lyrics from Rihanna's song "Umbrella."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.