Nureyev sells out final show

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A pair of "slightly stained and worn" ballet slippers owned by Rudolf Nureyev sold for £4,803 at an auction of the ballet dancer's possessions at Christie's in New York yesterday.

Costumes, ballet shoes and paintings owned by Nureyev sold for staggering sums, in some cases 100 times their estimate, in a two-day auction that raised £5.1m.

The sale included 33 Old Master paintings which together realised £2.8m - equal to the pre-sale estimate for the entire auction.

The atmosphere at Christie's was of huge excitement as more than 1,000 fans and collectors fought for the contents of the late dancer's apartment in the Dakota building in New York and his Kensington flat in London. Hundreds had to watch on television monitors and bid via the public-address system.

Every item was sold, some for prices that dwarfed their estimates. The biggest surprises were 21 lots of ballet shoes, which fans had hoped to pick up as cheap souvenirs. Several went for thousands of pounds.

One pair of pale pink ballet slippers - "considerably soiled and worn" - went for £5,912. They were estimated at up to £39.

The costumes that Nureyev wore over a 40-year career which spanned the Kirov in Russia and the Royal Ballet in London were heavily contested. But the highest bid was for the fawn stockinette tunic he wore on the first night of the Royal Ballet, dancing with Margot Fonteyn. Labelled "Royal Opera House; Production: Giselle; Act I; Character: Prince; Name: Nureyev; Covent Garden", it sold for £33,258 after being estimated at £1,928 to £3,213.

A Fuseli painting, Satan Starting From The Touch Of Ithuriel's Lance, went slightly over its estimate, for £489,395. A Reynolds portrait of George Townshend went for £496,465, more than double the price expected.

"It was like a first night," said Christopher Burge, chairman of Christie's America. "We had people here who had never been in an auction house but simply revered and loved Rudolf Nureyev for his dancing."

Proceeds from the sale will go to the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundations in America and Europe, both founded by the dancer who died of Aids in January 1993, aged 54.