Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé had a shared fascination for Islamic art and Oriental civilisation.
By Henrietta Thompson
As anyone with any experience of Morocco will surely understand, the urge to acquire there – textiles, ceramics, furniture, spices, stories – can be overwhelming. And no-one knows this better than Pierre Bergé, life partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent and co-founder of his couture house. “As soon as we arrived in Morocco, both Yves and I were fascinated by Islamic art and so decided to collect it,” he recalls. In just one week’s time, that very collection will go under the hammer in the salons of the Palace Es Saadi in Marrakech in aid of the Jardin Majorelle Foundation. The sale, simply titled A Moroccan Passion, will be held by Artcurial on the 31st October.
“The proceeds from this sale will enable us to continue improving the garden and to welcome, in the best possible fashion, the numerous visitors which last year amounted to almost 800,000,” explains Bergé, who is also chair of the Foundation. It will also help finance the nearby Yves Saint Laurent museum that is currently scheduled to open in 2017.
As well as some 180 items of Moroccan art (including weapons, embroidery, cloth, ceramics, jewellery and carpets) that were previously exhibited at the Jardin Majorelle Museum before its focus turned exclusively to Berber art during its renovation in 2011, the sale will also include more than 50 pieces of furniture and paintings from the couple’s personal collection. Further to that, collectors can also snap up each and every item of furniture that was designed for the museum by Bill Willis, architect of the Marrakech jet set. Willis has been credited with inspiring the interior design trend for bohemian chic in the late Sixties, and created everything from the windows to the libraries and decorative elements for the museum.
Now one of the most fabulously photogenic must-visit gardens in Marrakech, the Jardin Majorelle was originally built as a workshop for the French painter Jacques Majorelle in 1922. A keen botanist, the artist surrounded the building with a garden made up of exotic plants and rare species. In 1937 he developed his own colour – Majorelle blue – which he used to paint the walls of the workshop and then the entire garden, and the stunning spaces that resulted were opened to the public in 1947 until his death in 1962 when the garden was left to ruin.
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the site in 1980 to save it from being turned into a hotel complex. Renaming it Villa Oasis, the pair established an art deco-style workshop on the site which now houses the Berber Museum. After Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, Pierre Bergé decided to donate the Jardin Majorelle to the Pierre Bergé –Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, Paris.
Moroccan culture famously inspired Saint Laurent’s own designs, and the pieces in the collection offer a window onto his passion, while reflecting Bergé and Saint Laurent’s personal tastes and their fascination with Islamic art and Oriental civilisation.