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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pierre Berge and the Sale of the Century

L'amour Fou can mean one of two different things, the first being "crazy love" and the second being "wild love." Either way it translates well into the relationship between Pierre Berges and Yves St Laurent and also the relationship Yves had with Haute Couture. The passion between the pair allowed Yves, while always talented, to excel after being "fired" as the clothing designer for Christian Dior. Berges allowed Yves to pursue his passions and encouraged him to look beyond what he saw regularly. He did this by making Yves go on small trips once a day. The constant outings allowed for Yves and Pierre to have time alone and also encouraged Yves to find new inspiration in the world around him. While the movie revolved mostly about the development of Saint-Laurent and Berge’s relationship and career, both this relationship and their collection strategy can help one learn how to succeed in the art industry.

Although Saint-Laurent was not in the business of high-end art, in a sense he was an art dealer. He designed thousands of dresses and outfits and then convinced his consumers to part with their hard-earned money for a creation designed to be aesthetically pleasing. In this capacity, Saint-Laurent adopted several tenets that composed his philosophy in conducting business. As he once stated in an interview, his objective was to make women comfortable in their clothes. In comparison, Pierre Berge handled the entire business aspect of the Yves St. Laurent design house. This is integral to any business because while an owner must address the needs and desires of the consumer, at the same time, it must stay grounded to prevent over-extending the money supply. A business’ role is to help their customers and will not be successful if they cannot accomplish this goal.

Moreover, Saint-Laurent’s shows – his main avenues of publicity – were entirely centered on the quality of the product he was offering. He never compromised his integrity to falsely advertise, but instead simply allowed the product to speak for itself in capturing the interest of the people. In the art and map dealing world, it is the responsibility of the dealer to know the history and background behind the piece they are selling in order to do the same: allow the piece’s history to speak to its value and come to life for the client. Finally, Saint-Laurent often had direct contact with his customers. In his industry, just as in the art industry, it is imperative that the dealer establish a personal relationship with their clients. Otherwise, the dealer cannot expect to have success.

After Yves passed away, Pierre chose to part ways with much of the art which he and Yves bought through an auction at Christies. By Berge’s admission, their rather extensive collection was not assembled in a large purchase, but rather as a piece at a time “over 20 years.” Towards the end of the movie, we see Berge holding previews of the pieces in New York in order to expand the knowledge of the sale to a wider clientele base. He also used the media to advertise the sale. One of the reasons for the success of the auction, as is common with many artworks, is who previously owned the works. The makes all of the difference in selling because when people think of Yves St. Laurent, they think of impeccable taste. By owning something he once did, the new owner might impress others with his own taste.

The sale as a whole was extremely successful, managing to sell all of the pieces for $484 million in only three days of sales. The passion for which the two amassed their collection is notable because they only bought what they loved. The idea of buying for passion is one of the reasons people buy art today. In the end, though Berge said that it was never his or Saint-Laurent’s intention to sell their collection, the final sale was a way for Berge to conclude his life with St. Laurent and begin anew, as his artworks did with their new owner.

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