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Christie’s Elizabeth Taylor Collection Preview Launch

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
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Screen legend and dedicated humanitarian Elizabeth Taylor is sadly no longer with us, but she will not be forgotten…nor will her gems. “She was a technicolor personality who epitomized gutsy glamour,” said Meredith Etherington-Smith, Christie’s curator for the Taylor fashion auction, during a private preview and luncheon in celebration of the exhibition Thursday afternoon, co-hosted by Christie’s chairman Marc Porter and OC Concept Store’s Orianne Collins.

The intimate group of high-profile philanthropists and collectors who toasted Hollywood royalty’s collection of jewels, clothes, handbags, and artwork included Patty Smyth McEnroe; Bettina Zilkha; Gillian Hearst Simonds; Nathalie Kaplan; Lydia Fenet; Anna Pinheiro; and Fiona Druckenmiller. There were, of course, the infamous baubles—most notably the Cartier Taj Mahal diamond (bidding to start at $300,000), the 33.19-carat diamond ring Richard Burton bought her in 1968, and the antique tiara courtesy of Mike Todd. With husbands like that, who needs stylists? Other jewelry houses that figured prominently in the collection were Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, Lorraine Schwartz, and JAR.

But the legendary jewels are only part of the story. As Christie’s jewelry expert Rahul Kadakia says, “We’ve sold the collections of Doris Duke, Ellen Barkin and many more, but what makes Taylor’s the best is the range of pieces that she collected. She is known for the big diamonds, but she didn’t just buy the biggest pieces…she learned about them.”

Another revelation was Taylor’s enormous fashion collection that she had amassed for over 50 years. The expected Thea Porter caftans were on display, but as Etherington-Smith explained, “We didn’t know Ms. Taylor was buying serious fashion for over 50 years. And by serious, I mean couture. Plus, once she left the studios, she had to style herself.  She was a star in the days before stylists.”

The clothing highlights include a red velvet Valentino evening gown (she met the designer—who had just started his couture house—while filming Cleopatra); sequined bolero jackets by Gianni Versace (one of which she wore to the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992); and a seemingly endless collection of Dior. Her final Dior dress—a bright red beaded confection designed especially for her by John Galliano in 2010—came with a beautiful letter assuring Dame Elizabeth that the dress would not be transparent when she wore it. Even confined to a wheelchair, our beloved Hollywood icon and devoted AIDS activist knew how to rock couture with the best of them.

The collection can be seen in all its glory on a multi-level display at Christie’s through December 12, after which it will be sold, and the luckiest collectors and aficionados from around the world will each have their own little piece of Liz, ensuring that the legacy that is Elizabeth Taylor lives on forever.
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