Film fans in Pakistan, especially those belonging to the older generation, have certainly not forgotten Alain Delon. The French actor was an international movie star who was at the height of his fame from the mid-1960s till the end of the 20th century.
Though he began his career playing a murderer in his break-out films, Purple Noon and The Swimming Pool, he soon came to the world’s attention as the irresistibly handsome nephew of Burt Lancaster’s character in the Luchino Visconti film The Leopard (1963). Delon consequently became an international idol. Today, as far as his home country is concerned, he still remains a widely admired personality at the age of 87.
But the reason why we are talking about Alain Delon here has nothing to do with his films. In fact, the reason why he is being mentioned here is due to his sudden and surprising decision to put his entire collection of 83 works of art up for auction, in Paris on June 22 this year.
According to Delon’s own declaration, he bought his first piece of art — a pen and ink drawing on paper sheet — at age 24, and never stopped acquiring paintings and sculptures ever since. Given his vast collection, it is evident that he put the fortune he was making with his blockbuster movies to good use.
French film icon Alain Delon recently put his impressive collection of paintings and sculptures up for sale
He further explains that now, at his age, he wouldn’t want his possession of chef d’oeuvres to be a headache for his children and grandchildren, who would instead be more comfortable with some cash once he is gone. As Delon puts it, “What’s the point in taking a huge stockpile, even of art, to one’s grave?”
This considerably large collection, when put on sale, immediately found enthusiastic buyers at the auction and fetched $8.8 million — almost twice the amount pre-estimated by the auction experts.
The highest sales were those of a canvas by the French painter Raoul Dufy, Bay of Sainte-Adresse (1906), which raked in a million dollars, closely followed by Arab Horse Tied to a Stake (1825) by another French artist, Eugène Delacroix, which went for $849,000.
“There are two things I regard as my legacy: my acting career and my art collection,” says Delon, adding, “I have always been proud of them both but now, at my age, one of these two had to find its own way out. There was no other choice as far as I was concerned!”
Another drawing, by the 15th century Italian artist Domenico Beccafumi, more than tripled its high estimate of $88,000, selling for about $265,000. Other top-selling items included works by Albert Gleizes, Rembrandt Bugatti, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet.
In the words of one of the directors of the auction agency that had organised the event: “This was an unprecedented success, fetching in more than twice the sum that we had estimated but also bringing to public attention the refined taste of this legend of cinema that is Alain Delon!”
The writer is an art critic based in Paris.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in Dawn, EOS, July 16th, 2023