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“André, like most of us, just wanted to be loved,” Mr. Walker said. “And one of the reasons he really loved his church family is he was embraced unconditionally, and that wasn’t the case in the fashion world, which sought to put him in a box of the caricature of the fashion diva.” Even if it was a caricature he helped create and maintain.
“Internally he was constantly negotiating that reality,” Mr. Walker said. “He had a consciousness that was informed by the history of racism and his own experience of racism both growing up and in the industry. He was a very private person and a master of compartmentalization, largely as a reaction to that. He didn’t reveal himself to many beyond the news release. But on the bookshelves of his White Plains house were scholarly books on 17th-century French court dress next to first edition copies of Paul Robeson’s biography and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s history of Black America.”
Both sides of Mr. Talley’s life will be on view in the sale, which is, in some ways, an effort to create a bridge between the two. It will allow people to see, Ms. Thomas said, “the worlds that André did not expose.” Whoopi Goldberg has written an essay for the catalog; the designer LaQuan Smith will be speaking at the Palm Beach event; and in New York the Abyssinian Baptist choir will perform.
Christie’s has put a current low estimate on the sale of $702,200. Historically, however, personal estate auctions often far exceed the estimates because of the unquantifiable emotional dimensions involved. At the recent Joan Didion sale at Stair Galleries, for example, a pair of Céline sunglasses valued at a few hundred dollars sold for $27,000. At Christie’s own sale of the Joan Rivers estate, a silver dog bowl engraved with her pet Spike’s name estimated at $500-$800 ended up selling for more than $13,750. During the auction of the estate of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, a pillow valued at $1000 to $1,500 went for $71,250. Last year Christie’s held a sale for DJ Kool Herc that ultimately brought in 226 percent more than the estimate.
“You know, we have no clue what will capture people’s imagination, what will get people to bid against one another,” said Elizabeth Siegel, the head of private and iconic collections at Christie’s. “Will it be one of Mr. Talley’s amazing caftans, or will it be a portrait of him?”