Items from Lauren Bacall's private collection to be auctioned at Bonhams
“Imagination is the highest kite that can fly.”
Lauren Bacall's intricate collection of jewels, sculpture, art and other collectables are to be displayed in a touring exhibition ahead of a Bonhams auction next month. The possessions of the late actress, who passed away last year, have been offered up by her surviving daughter, and are sure to be of interest to admirers of the screen icon. The tour will land in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Paris before finishing on the auction block at Bonhams in New York.
Bacall had an eye for design and style and accumulated an impressive collection of beautiful, rare and interesting items in her lifetime. Jon King, vice president of Bonhams New York, has called her an "accomplished collector" with "extraordinary taste." Among her collection are exquisite art works that she sought out; six bronze maquettes by British sculptor Henry Moore for example, as well as contemporary and modern prints by David Hockney, Jim Dine, Richard Avedon and James Aubodon. But these are accompanied by equally valuable keepsakes from friends such as Daffodils by Ted Kennedy and Jamaican Hillside Road by Noel Coward.
It is hard to distinguish what to highlight in a collection this diverse and truly unique, but one such item would be the lithograph of a painting by Henry Fonda of the three hats he wore during the filming of On Golden Pond. One, a fedora, had been given to Fonda by Katherine Hepburn and was Spencer Tracy's "lucky" hat. When filming wrapped, Fonda presented the original painting to Hepburn and had 200 lithographs made to give to the rest of the cast and crew. Items with such rich Hollywood lineage are rare indeed.
The relationship that Bonhams had with Bacall, provides a poetic subtext to the story of the Lauren Bacall Collection. Jon King met Bacall some years ago when her daughter approached Bonhams initially about offering a select few items to auction. After Bacall welcomed King to her home, she immediately put him to the test and friendship founded on the mutual appreciation of art, sculpture, and antiques blossomed from there:
"On my first visit to her apartment (in the Dakota building) she tested my knowledge by pointing to these pieces that were displayed on a console in her entrance hall and asking me what they were. I knew exactly what they were as I'd written a paper on them in college and told her all about them, from then on we met every three weeks until she passed away."
He adds: "I always had to leave by 5.30pm so she could watch the six o'clock news... Her affection for her collections was obvious. As we walked, she ran her hand over particular pieces of furniture and sculpture, I asked her about this and she said that she couldn't help herself - the tactile nature of decorative arts and sculpture drew her in."
It is rare that an auctioneer can provide such personal context to a lot like this, but one senses that King is the only man for job.